When the Society of Government Meeting Professionals convenes its National Education Conference in Huntsville, Ala., from September 21 to 23, there will be plenty to discuss. The Biden Administration has announced new mandates to spur Americans who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 to get a shot. In particular, government meetings are sure to feel the effects—federal employees and contractors who work with the government face vaccine mandates and will no longer have the option of submitting to regular Covid testing instead.
In fact, the administration’s intentions go further, including a plan for the Labor Department to issue a rule in the coming weeks that requires employers with more than 100 employees to ensure that workers are vaccinated against Covid or are tested weekly.
Annette Wallace, CMP, CGMP, national board president for SGMP and a planner with the Hawthorn Foundation, is watching how these new rules play out in the courts as well as in the court of public opinion. “If mandates are what it takes to bring trust back to meeting in person, there might be more support for mandates over time,” she says.
Wallace is confident that SGMP planners and their attendees will adjust. “A change in process might be disruptive at first, but soon meeting attendees will adapt and learn to expect these procedures as part of a government meeting professionals’ duty of care,” she says. And any change will be just the latest of numerous pandemic disruptions. “Now more than ever, government meeting professionals are learning how to have well-thought-out back up plans, how to be vigilant and overcommunicate to attendees, and how to stand ready to pivot to virtual or put in force more stringent health protocols to keep attendees safe.”
While the association has not officially added anything to its conference agenda addressing the mandates, already-planned sessions on mitigating event risk, legal perspectives on managing meeting risks and liabilities, and safety as it relates to site selection are likely to dig into planners concerns and responsibilities, Wallace says. “This isn’t the first time that new regulations have affected government meetings, but it illustrates why it’s beneficial for government meeting professionals at all levels to have a professional home to learn and grow together.”