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An indoor-outdoor event space at JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live

Webinar Addresses Virtual Meeting Goals and Live Meeting Setups

Retraining and retaining employees is a virtual priority, while indoor-outdoor event designs are an in-person priority.

In the most recent webinar conducted by the Meetings Mean Business coalition, six executives from the worlds of meetings, hospitality, and human resources discussed the need for online retraining of employees in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but in ways that maintain camaraderie and morale so that employees stay with their organizations. The panelists also talked about the ways that in-person meetings could start to return to the mix for corporations and associations.

Titled Policies and Protocols: The Future of Corporate Meetings & Travel, the July 31 webinar featured Sherrif Karamat, CEO of the Professional Convention Management Association, as the meetings industry’s representative. One key point he and the panel discussed: As employee reskilling takes place through virtual meetings, some planners and HR people say they’re seeing online-meeting burnout. On the flip side, others are noticing greater employee satisfaction because “colleagues are interacting with each other more than they ever have—even if they worked in the same office,” Karamat noted. Further, when gamification tools are introduced into online educational sessions as well as socially focused “virtual happy hours,” the effect on employee satisfaction is positive.

Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 11.47.08 AM.png“Talent retention is one issue we’re all pretty worried about,” Karamat (pictured here) said in a post-webinar interview. “We see how the hospitality industry has suffered such a negative impact in terms of job losses, and associations have not received any relief funds from the government. So, the impact has been profound on both sides of our business—talent is migrating out of the industry. As a result, when things get back to normal there is likely going to be a knowledge and experience deficit” in many meetings and events departments as well as in hotels’ convention services departments.

Another topic central to the panel discussion was the new landscape that in-person meetings will have to adopt to be both safe and effective. Given the combination of corporate-travel restrictions and destinations’ event-size restrictions for the foreseeable future, “the repurposing of local hotel spaces is one of the things some organizations are looking at,” Karamat told MeetingsNet. For instance, “you can set a hotel ballroom in the style of a technology studio and host a small live audience there, and then connect with similar small audiences at venues in different cities. The cost is not prohibitive because the technology costs for connecting spaces that way is coming down.”

He added that “anyone who is thinking creatively about in-person events should be looking at outdoor spaces” available for tenting, such as patios, terraces, courtyards, pool decks, event lawns, and parking lots. Even indoor prefunction spaces with doors that open to the outside for better ventilation can be repurposed to host formal sessions. One example: “For the 2019 PCMA EduCon at the JW Marriott Los Angeles LA Live, we made use of the clear-glass garage doors they have in some of the public spaces to provide an indoor-outdoor environment. These are the ways our industry has to be thinking, and it seems that many venues are trying to come up with creative things that event organizers will be comfortable with.”

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