Thorough and transparent communication fosters confidence, understanding and accountability amongst attendees.
As an industry, we know that timely and thorough communication fosters attendee confidence and understanding, and a shared accountability for the meeting protocols put into place. Detailed communication and full transparency are key to setting up a successful event -- and are essential as we slowly begin to host face-to-face again.
"This really is a two-way street," said Katie Bohrer, CMP and Vice President of Meeting Design & Experience at ALHI. "It's on us as planners to overcommunicate and make it easy for attendees to follow safety protocols, but it is also up to the attendees to take the code of conduct to heart and do their very best to keep themselves and their colleagues safe."
Be Transparent: Prior to the event, send a link to prospective attendees that includes safety protocols put into place for the event that are to be adhered to by the event organizer, hotel or venue, vendors and any partners involved in the event. Including these safety protocols as part of your invite and prior to event registration builds confidence in prospective attendees. F
As we continue to focus n safe meetings, here are two rules of thumb to keep in mind for every event:
- Ensure a minimum of six feet of distance in all furniture set ups, meal functions, session designs, line queues and elevators
- Provide signage throughout the venue and in meeting spaces that reminds the group of guidelines, mask protocols and a minimum of six feet distancing
Code of Conduct: It is a good idea to create a code of conduct that attendees commit to following when they register and attend the event. For the 10 events planned and executed by ALHI used the EIC APEX Group Code of Conduct. According to EIC, "Community buy-in by all participants at the event level is one way we can help rebuild trust and advocate for the wellbeing of our fellow global citizens and our industry."
"All of the value of face to face interaction is still relevant, if not even more so now," said Michelle Penny of Blacksheep Productions. "As long as stakeholders are doing their respective parts to keep themselves and each other safe and healthy, we can move back to in person gatherings and all of the benefits those events provide. When we work together, we can meet together!"
Video Chat: Another way to communicate event protocols is to host an open forum video call with all prospective and registered attendees prior to the event. During the call, review the overall event and introduce the main event planner, host hotel(s), and any other critical partners like airlines, production companies, or car transfers. Take time to thoroughly review on-site safety protocols, as well as the attendees' code of conduct. Also, be sure to leave time to open the call and address any specific questions your attendees may have. Follow-up after the call with an informational email that links to specific documents discussed.
Keep In Touch: The EIC APEX Group Code of Conduct includes a directive in regards to the pandemic: "Based on current contact tracing advice from many health authorities, if you test positive for COVID-19 up to 14 days after returning home, please contact the meeting/event organizers to advise them."
If you are in fact advised of a positive case of COVID-19 post-event, it is integral that you inform the attendees immediately in a direct and clear manner. While it is important to be thorough, in order to respect the privacy of all attendees, do not include any detailed information that could identify the person who has contracted the coronavirus. Instead, share the facts and encourage all attendees to follow the CDC Self-Checker tool to determine whether or not they should get tested.
Following the event, our organization has been made aware by one of our attendees that they have tested positive for COVID-19 on [date]. To date, we have not received any other notice outside of this one attendee.
While our event planner(s) and host hotel took every precaution that the CDC recommends in planning our event, out of an abundance of caution, please follow CDC guidelines to determine if you should get tested, and ensure that you are monitoring your health and symptoms closely for the next [number] of days until end of 14 days. The 14-day monitoring period ends [date] as our event concluded on [date].
For your reference, here are links to CDC guidelines: Coronavirus Self-Checker and Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure.
Our team is committed first and foremost to your health and well-being. Please let us know if we can do anything to support you.
Event Updates: In addition to notifying attendees if you have any positive COVID-19 cases reported, it is important to keep communication open and continue to keep them updated. You will also want to be sure to send a follow-up when the 14 days post-event have ended, and if you have any additional cases reported.
Additional planning resources, some of which we have referenced here in Safe Meetings, are available through the Events Industry Council, which has curated event protocol resources from across the industry. Review them here.
We are committed to updating these guidelines as CDC and WHO guidelines evolve so we can maintain the highest level of compliance and safety considerations in our meetings.
photo credit © Clint Brewer