In a matter of a few weeks we have seen global travel grind to a halt. The meetings & events industry has suffered from the coronavirus pandemic alongside every other travel-based market.  We’ve gone from hosting events with thousands of people to scrambling to move to a virtual platform and keep our programs full of their usual content and collaboration.

Now that the dust has started to settle and we are all finding our footing in this strange new time, we are learning what meetings and events will look like, at least for the near future. And while it will be different, we’re finding ways to keep it engaging, educational and fun!

The Virtual Event
Our life has moved home, and our meetings have moved online.  It’s different, but we’ve got this! GoToMeeting, Zoom and a whole host of other virtual platforms have quickly become something we connect with daily. And now that everyone is used to these tools and comfortable “hopping on” a meeting, now is the time to consider a virtual event until we can all get together again.

Planning for your first virtual event can seem daunting, but really, it’s just like planning an in-person event, just with less time (sounds fun, right?). World Travel, Inc. will be hosting our first large virtual event next week on Thursday, May 21st from 10:30am – 12pm. So to help you plan your next virtual event we have listed the steps our team followed to ensure a successful webinar.

  1. Pick a time and a platform: Late morning and early afternoon will yield the best attendance so be mindful of the timing when scheduling your event.
  2. Look at your agenda: Unfortunately, our attention span just isn’t going to accommodate programming for an event that was supposed to last several days when we are home with other distractions. So, scale back, and if schedules permit, consider hosting multiple events to ensure your message gets across.
  3. Send your invitations: This one doesn’t need to change much. Just like you would before send the invitations for your event to your contacts. Post it to social media and encourage your team members to share it with their contacts as well.
  4. Consider Technology: Typically, you may use a variety of tech platforms to register and engage your employees. Virtual webinars can still support these tools – and can really enhance your event. If your event will last for more than a few hours consider using a tool like Cvent for registration so your attendees can still sign up for different training sessions, register for the event, and you can send communications and promotions. Additionally, using a mobile app can help get people excited about the event, keep communication open and provide a social platform.
  5. PRACTICE! This is new to most of us. Spend time learning your platform, host some simple meetings with your colleagues to learn the tool and fix any kinks before you go live.
  6. Have fun: We are all in this together and on the day of your meeting if something doesn’t go exactly as planned, it’s OK! Get your message out there, engage with your audience, ask them questions (use that trusty “chat” feature) and just have fun with it. Yes, the in-person meeting would have been a lot more fun (hello, wine!) but we can make this fun too.

After a few of these virtual events, you’ll be a pro. But then the real fun begins. It’ll be time to get back together and figure out how to plan an in-person event while we take social distancing into consideration.

As you know, reopening guidelines and statuses are constantly changing. But we have been getting questions from our customers about how they should plan for when meetings get back into convention centers and hotels, and we have compiled some information below.

Social Distancing

No one really knows how long we will have to practice social distancing, but we will definitely have some form of it at least through the fall. Our hotel contacts expect two attendees per six feet of space for the remainder of the year to ensure peace of mind with the attendees. Additionally, seating is something to consider, your attendee list will likely have to get cut back to accommodate the new, more limited seating options.

Hub and Spoke Events
With limited seating and space at convention centers and hotels, hub and spoke events might be a good option. This essentially means that you would host the same event in multiple locations. So you may have one larger event in Las Vegas, with smaller ‘spokes’ in Philadelphia, Seattle and Chicago. 

Hotel Contracts
The pandemic’s impact on the hotel industry was almost immediate in terms of room and event space cancellations. Currently, the U.S. hotel industry is losing about $3.5 billion per week – a staggering statistic–and The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates almost 4 million jobs will be/were lost due to the pandemic.  

Your original contact may not be working for the hotel at this time.  If your event was cancelled or postponed, reach out to the hotel and they will help you reschedule your event or walk you through the options available to you. Many of our customers are rescheduling for Fall of 2020 or early Spring 2021. If you plan to reschedule your event during that time-frame you want to contact the hotel ASAP to secure a date because their schedules are already getting limited. 

Helping You Along the Way
We understand this is a difficult time to plan an event, but if you need help navigating the ever-changing event landscape our experienced World Meetings & Event team is here to help.

Phylicia Sierer

Written by Phylicia Sierer