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8 Questions About Planning Safe In-Person Events

Experts from BCD Meetings & Events provide answers about how to get back to face-to-face.

The logistics of safe face-to-face meetings and conferences requires several new layers of thoughtful planning. As a result, BCD Meetings & Events put together a task force to evaluate the tricky topics faced by on-site meeting managers, from site inspections to health and safety measures to contact tracing.

Laura Konwinski, BCD M&E’s senior director of global compliance who headed up the task force, led a MeetingsNet webinar in mid-October along with her colleague Andrea de Miro to share the task force’s findings and their on-the-ground experience. Many in the webinar audience of 810 meeting professionals were eager for the intel: A poll during the event asked whether or not attendees had operated a face-to-face event since April. Just 14 percent had executed at least one, but another 35 percent were planning their first. The remaining 51 percent responded “it will be a while” before planning a face-to-face meeting.

With so much at stake, attendees had plenty of questions, not all of which were answered during the 60-minute event. Read on for the speakers’ answers to some of the audience questions, then watch the full webinar, The Future of In-Person Events: Safer Event Experiences, available on-demand.

How do you handle multiple speakers on stage at the same time?
The ideal scenario is for panelists to each have their own lapel microphone and to wear masks. The only times speakers would not wear masks is at the podium—with sanitization between presenters.

What is the mindset behind using china versus single-use products?
There is no clear guidance on disposables during the pandemic. Sustainability has been and needs to remain a key focus in the event industry. Plated meals and china, if correctly used by trained servers, are as safe as disposable items.

Have venues restructured their pricing model as groups now need more space for fewer attendees and have new requirements for setup and meal prep?
At present, Hilton, for example, has confirmed that it has no intention of increasing costs, despite the larger spaces and longer preparation time, in order to encourage the return on site.

How has your site-inspection checklist changed?
We’ve added specifics related to pandemic safety, asking questions about audiovisual equipment, such as the sanitization of microphones and the safety measures of any outside providers; food and beverage processes; the hotel’s use of PPE; options for contactless payment; and more.

Is it the venue's responsibility to provide safety items (sanitizer stations, medical area, etc.) or the group's?
There is no clear guidance on specific items and equipment to be provided by the event venue versus the host organization. Sanitizing stations and PPE [provided by properties] are a nice-to-have at this stage. For planners, it can be discussed in negotiation. Safety measures and additional sanitizing can be concessions that venues and planners come to agree on.

How important is air flow and filtration in meeting rooms?
Some countries restrict access to meeting rooms that do not have fresh air intake. Unfortunately, global guidance is not available on this, but each venue must be aware of specific country regulations. [Read more on meeting-room ventilation issues here.]

What are your suggestions for printing badges and certificates? The process tends to involve a lot of touches.
We need to look for sustainable solutions in the future, maybe avoiding printing badges or certificates on site. At the moment, the technology we're using on site is digital touchless kiosks with QR codes or barcodes that allow attendees to print their own badges at the beginning of the congress or meeting.

How do you enforce a "daily health-screening questionnaire"? Do you perform the checks before attendees enter meeting rooms, or is it online?
You should implement a daily health screening in order to identify individuals who are symptomatic, have tested positive for Covid-19, or have been exposed to individuals who have tested positive for Covid-19, within the last 14 days. Attendees must monitor their health on a daily basis before leaving for a meeting and, if they have symptoms, refrain from coming. All attendees must complete mandatory daily health screening in a survey program prior to travelling as well as on site using their smartphone or PC. Keep in mind that that data collection should align with data-privacy rules. [Read more about on-site testing here.]

Do you have a protocol in place for isolating event staff who have dealt with someone who is reporting Covid symptoms?
Anyone who has had exposure to a known case needs to be isolated. We’ve talked about having a process in place to put replacement on-site travel directors on call. It’s an important conversation to have in your pre-planning phase.


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