By Beth Buehler
If you are someone like me who likes to connect face-to-face with people, I can’t wait for the restrictions surrounding coronavirus (COVID-19) to be safely lifted so that meetings and events can start happening again! I’ve worked out of a home office for 24 years, so these gatherings help me network, learn, experience destinations and get my people fix. Those who have been relegated to home unintentionally, due to stay-at-home orders, may be even more ready to get back in person with their work teams.
So what will this look like as restrictions start relaxing for groups after covid-19? The little things like getting a haircut or sitting in a favorite restaurant to dine that we took for granted are now monumental. Think of how energy and excitement from being cooped up will flow into gatherings like board retreats, strategic planning sessions, sales meetings by department or region, and team-building time outdoors. Small meetings and events will reunite groups after COVID-19 and here are five reasons why.
Small groups will best fit within restrictions as they ease up. This one is no big surprise as it’s true within our social circles as well, whether it’s book clubs, patio happy hours or classes. It seems like the magic number has been 10 to get socializing back on track, so it will be interesting to see what the next numbers look like. I’m guessing health officials and elected leaders on all levels will slowly work us back to 100, 200 and beyond.
Attendees will be more confident in health safety with fewer people present. There definitely have been various comfort levels of being out and about, from those who don’t feel the need to wear a mask in stores to those who have hardly left their homes and everything in between. In order to respect this wide range of COVID-19 tolerance, from both health and mental standpoints, a return to meetings and events will have to start small and grow incrementally so people feel safe. Also so venues and lodging properties can follow any social distancing restrictions that are still in place and develop dialed-in cleaning and food serving protocols.
Hybrid meetings will get their moment in the spotlight. I’ve been really impressed with how audiovisual companies in Colorado have demonstrated their adaptability to the “new norm” by presenting all sorts of professional online options for meetings, fund-raisers, graduations, memorial services and more. Hybrid meetings that have both in-person and from-a-distance elements will allow larger groups to meet, with those located within driving distance going to the selected destination and others joining via technology. They may become a more common occurrence for the long haul courtesy of COVID-19 getting more and more people used to a wide range of meeting platforms, but I suspect people ultimately prefer meeting in person.
It will be easier to handle the extra steps and test new approaches. Some things I’ve been reading about in terms of how meetings will change for the time being are seating chart approaches, new trade show formats, temperature checks to make sure no one is bringing in illness, and deliberate communication about health safety measures.
They open up a wide range of destinations to consider. Recently Destination Colorado posted a blog about small communities as great choices in this time of COVID-19, but larger Colorado communities like Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greeley and Boulder on the Front Range also can help small meetings and events to reunite groups after COVID-19 in style. It gives communities and hotels the chance to showcase smaller venues and ways to spread out larger groups across a property or several properties so that attendees are never all together but in smaller pods that make sense.
Destination Colorado aims to keep people informed about what’s happening in regard to meetings and events in the state and to share innovative ideas. Check the weekly blogs on a regular basis and browse the entire website to quickly gather information about destinations, properties, and all sorts of suppliers that are well versed at serving the meetings and events industry.
Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 15 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.