Thirty meeting and event planners came together in person at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner in Virginia in early November, joined by 238 planners attending virtually, for the first installment of Marriott International’s “Connect with Confidence” hybrid-meeting series.
The hotel company used an in-person format that it thinks can be a model for other hybrid meetings. The event showcased Marriott’s revised approaches to meeting-room and prefunction-area setups (see photo below) that maintain social distancing, products and staff behaviors that maintain cleanliness of surfaces throughout the spaces, and virtual-event technologies that bring in remote participants.
Seated in socially distanced pairs in the Ritz-Carlton’s ballroom or in front of a computer, attendees heard from several high-ranking Marriott executives who were spaced across the full width of the stage. Each executive touched on how the brand’s Commitment to Clean program for meeting and event protocols has been implemented within their department. They included David Marriott, president, U.S. full service, managed by Marriott; Erika Alexander, chief officer, global operations; Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations, technology & emerging businesses; Dana Pellicano, vice president, food & beverage; Julius Robinson, chief sales & marketing officer, U.S. & Canada; and Tammy Routh, senior vice president, global sales.
Marriott’s newest approaches to in-person meetings and hybrid-related developments were featured, such as:
- Digital registration and pre-selection of “Sanctuary Seats” for skittish attendees within a meeting-room setup preview
- Individually packaged amenities for each in-person attendee, including a face shield, mask, hand sanitizer, and color-coated bracelets to indicate each attendee’s level of comfort: red for “please keep your distance;” yellow for “please respect my immediate space;” and green for “elbow bumps welcome”
- Some virtual-only content to enhance the experience, including infographics outlining pre-event, event-day, and post-event protocols for in-person events
- Real-time interactive discussion and polling questions, multiple camera views for virtual attendees, virtual games with rewards, and a Q&A session for both virtual and in-person attendees
- Creative lunch solutions, including a food delivery credit for virtual attendees and the option for in-person attendees to dine solo, or with one, two, or three others at their table
Through live polling, nearly 25 percent of the attendees said they plan to host a hybrid event within the next one to three months. Overall, attendee sentiment was focused on the importance of venue and staff flexibility, offering attendees choices based on comfort levels, and delivering cost-effective and technology-driven solutions.
The event “demonstrated that it is possible to host meetings in a responsible, sophisticated, cost-effective, and enjoyable way, said Tammy Routh. “We are thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase creative solutions for hybrid meetings.”
Marriott says that additional Connect with Confidence hybrid events for planners will take place throughout the first half of 2021.