10 Crucial Tips for Live Meetings in the Time of COVID

If there’s anything our meeting and event planners have learned since our slow return to face-to-face meetings amid a pandemic, it’s to expect the unexpected.  Our team recently returned from a very successful live meeting and have compiled our 10 best tips to ensure your next meeting goes off without a hitch!  Keep reading to learn more. 

Weigh your options for a live vs virtual vs hybrid meeting format

Which option is best for your attendees?  It all boils down to factors like your overall budget, the timeline for your event, and the geography of your attendees. First off, consider whether budget may be a barrier to an engaging hybrid meeting. What is the size of the group attending?  If the group is large and travel might be cumbersome, perhaps a virtual meeting would be best. If you’re planning a live meeting, does the event location offer opportunities for attendees to spread out during the meeting? Would weather permit you to host receptions or meals outdoors? Try to view the agenda holistically when considering the best options for the most productive event. 

Keep COVID a standing agenda item in planning meetings:

Although new coronavirus infections are thankfully falling in the U.S., we must still constantly factor in the changing nature of the COVID pandemic on our best-laid plans. Keeping new recommendations and mandates top-of-mind as a standing agenda item throughout the planning process will ensure that you are factoring in risk vs. reward of your meeting format. 

Clearly outline all requirements that need to be met for attendees to attend the meeting live and confirm who will be responsible for checking: 

At our most recent live-format meeting, the association required proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours. Although this seems straightforward, this required us to prepare designated team members to ask for vaccination proof on-site, as well as to navigate potentially difficult conversations on-site if an attendee did not have the necessary documentation.  Be sure to spend time preparing talking points and training for all on-site team members. 

Make sure all requirements and expectations are visible, easy to find, and re-communicated frequently

At our recent meeting, we made sure that the organization’s Official Statement on Health and Safety appeared on the registration site.  We also communicated vaccination / testing requirements clearly on the invitation, registration site, and confirmation communications leading up to the meeting. 

Plan for checking vaccination status efficiently by using online tools: 

The CLEAR digital vaccine card app is one example of a free app that can be used by attendees to submit their registration information as well as to scan attendees’ proof of vaccination, thereby eliminating wait times at on-site registration. 

Use color coding for easily-recognizable info for all staff and meeting planners:

At our recent meeting’s check-in, we provided green, yellow, and red stickers for attendees to place on their name badge in accordance with their social distancing preference, e.g.: 

  • Green = OK with handshakes
  • Yellow = Please no handshakes
  • Red = Please socially distance 6’+ away

Develop a crisis scenario plan: We know that we must always expect the unexpected as meeting planners, but a return to live meetings has required us double down on our scenario plans for anyone who may fall ill:

  • For presenters: Equip meeting rooms to allow the presenter to present virtually in case they need to switch their meeting format at the last minute. Work with your on-site AV provider to be prepared to project the presentation via web. Identify alternative presenters for every section of the meeting agenda. 
  • For attendees:  Hire a COVID Officer to be present during meeting times for any attendees or presenters who may fall ill.  Have a supply of at-home COVID tests available or identify the nearest local COVID testing facilities (the hotel can assist with this information). If an attendee tests positive, they should remain isolated until the current CDC Guidelines on Isolation timeframe has passed. This may require changing a flight and extending the guest’s hotel room reservation.  Be sure to speak with your client during the planning phase to determine how these travel change fees should be handled. 
  • For onsite staff:  Once the on-site team is determined, identify 1-2 alternates in the event an on-site staff member falls ill or is showing symptoms prior to departing for the meeting.  To reduce this risk, consider opportunities where you may be able to reduce the number of on-site staff members needed without impacting the success of the meeting.

Communicate frequently with all parties:

Constant communication with the hotel and clients on any changes that occur, particularly during the arrival of attendees, will ensure that all stakeholders are informed of inevitable last-minute changes.  Be sure to communicate immediately with the hotel staff if an attendee, client, or staff member has tested positive. 

Rely on the plan but be ready to change the plan…daily:

24 hours before our recent meeting, the organization’s Board of Directors asked us to verbally confirm with each of the 1500 attendees that they were asymptomatic. To address this request, we quickly developed a one-page questionnaire that every attendee and faculty member would need to acknowledge and sign daily. Upon completion of this daily form, the attendee would then be given a different color sticker (depending on the day) which served as their ticket for the day. We alerted our on-site staff to look for these stickers each day. Although this added an additional layer of logistics to our on-site plan, it ensured that the client could focus on a successful meeting. 

Schedule a post-meeting debrief with the client: 

After returning from our meeting, we regrouped with our client to discuss our on-site learnings, and confirmed which of these takeaways could be applied to future meetings.   

As we continue to navigate the COVID pandemic explore the new landscape of meetings, keep these tips in mind.  If you are searching for a partner to help you prepare for your next live, virtual, or hybrid meeting, connect with the meeting planning professionals at AVAIL and we can help you ensure your next meeting is a success.