The Complete Smarties Guide to Mastering the Return to Meetings

smarties

Meeting professionals are looking for guidance. Smart Meetings’ State of the Meetings Industry monthly confidence survey from June found planners looking at a glass that was most decidedly less than half full. The average rating for the strength of the industry that month from 394 industry players was an uninspired…four (out of 10).

Many respondents shared their emotional and financial pain, using words like “difficult,” “cautious,” “depressing”—and in one case—“wobbly.”

Many cited the need for a vaccine before companies feel comfortable allowing employees to travel again and said the uncertainty is making it challenging to move ahead. One respondent prescribed patience for what ails the industry: “I think we are heading in the right direction with all the guidelines/protocols out there. Attendees need time to feel confident.”

Others focused on how much meeting professionals are learning about alternative ways to reach their goals now. “This is an opportunity for meeting planners to be innovative and proactive,” in the words of one planner. “I think the event industry is making strides to adjust to the new normal.”

Another was optimistic that, by embracing communication, change and teamwork, the hospitality industry will be the one to look up to.

On the upside, most thought 2021 would be a better year. A majority (63 percent) reported that they expected their budgets and number of meetings in the coming year to increase or be no less than at the beginning of 2020.

Perhaps this statement summed up the bedrock of optimism best: “We have evolved and adapted before, and I have confidence we can do it again.”

A focus on smaller, regional and streaming/hybrid meetings was seen as a way to take doable steps in the right direction. Many commended new safety guidelines being put in place by hotels, associations and airlines, but still saw gray areas about how these would play out when actual attendees show up.

To answer the call for more support in learning how to “pirouette” and continue planning during what Destinations International called The Great Interruption, we put together this Complete Smarties Guide, covering everything from the alphabet soup of protocols, pandemic-proof contracts, realistic room setups, virtual engagement tips and F&B to keeping yourself and your attendees—and the planet—healthy.

You are going to want to tuck these tips away for easy reference, because while the industry will come back, it will take time. And it will not look exactly the same.

Safer Meeting Protocols: How to Craft a Code that Protects Everyone

protocols

During a pandemic, finding the sweet spot between strict guidelines and practical solutions is a delicate balancing act. Faced with a haze of uncertainty, the meeting planner has to make the “go” and “how to go” decisions, but the responsibility to do the right thing is shared by venue, community and guest alike.

How do you determine the right choice for your group? Experts have suggestions. Read more.

Do Post-Pandemic Setups with Panache

setups

Considerations for maintaining distancing and personal safety will offer challenges, but with them come opportunity to rethink the expected. So, how do you keep your team and attendees protected without sacrificing conversation, connection and overall experience?

Here are top tips to creatively and stylishly adapt to the new meeting standards. Read more.

Acing the Post-COVID Contract

contractForce majeure, sometimes referred to as “act of God,” is an agreement between parties that their contract may be suspended or varied in specific exceptional circumstances.

Before the coronavirus, many venue contracts didn’t feature force majeure clauses. Now they’re top of mind. The post-COVID contract will put greater emphasis on epidemic-like scenarios. Here’s what you need to know to get acquainted. Read more.

Take Care: How an Expert Communicates During a Pandemic

Something as simple as writing an email can be fraught when you don’t know what the person on the other end of the inbox is dealing with—illness, economic setbacks or worse. Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, has tips for how to message safely, compassionately—and effectively.

Read more.

Touchless (and Matchless) F&B

F&BMagic in the kitchen today means getting back to basics. It’s easy to package a sandwich or a cookie as a safe single serving, but how can a kitchen serve up memories in ways that are safe and sustainable against the ongoing threat of a very contagious, potentially fatal respiratory disease? The very thought, mused celebrity chef David Chang during lockdown, is enough to make your brain bleed.

Read more.

How to Protect Ourselves—and Mother Nature

In our urgency to defeat the virus, collateral damage is being done to sustainability. All that additional packaging, the throw-away masks, the toxic cleaning chemicals. The challenge now: how to devise strategies for not taking huge steps backward, while keeping meetings safe. For as many climate scientists have pointed out, this pandemic could be only a dress rehearsal of coming climate disruptions.

Read more.

A COVID-19 Checklist for Safe Events

Checklists are a staple in the planner playbook, and now, more than ever, can help ensure safe events as well reassure attendees. Here’s a rundown of items to add to your planning, based on CDC guidelines for events and other expert input.

Read more.

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