After an 18 month sabbatical it’s amazing to be back in the events game.
Our first events happened to be back to back events in Austin, Texas with companies headquartered in Sacramento, CA and Boston, MA. The employees were ready to travel and the companies were ready to implement safety precautions to help protect everyone attending. These events were followed by two domestic and four international Club trips where all of the group events were focused on outdoor venues. We are finding cancellations are happening less, clients are traveling more, and attritions are high within the group block.
After eight successful corporate events over the last two months I wanted to share a few lessons learned.
1. Make your events optional, everyone has different views and levels of comfort so for those ready to travel it’s a perfect opportunity, for those not ready it’s not a problem for them to pass on the event. I have been super comfortable being on site the last month at multiple clubs, leadership summits and company wide events. All the group events we’re outside and it’s easy enough to wear a mask when inside with the group. At the same time I am not comfortable yet to be in Las Vegas in an indoor conference facility with 5,000 other people. I did not attend IMEX and that’s my choice, and one I think every employee should have.
2. Require all attendees, even vaccinated to test before arrival. This is an easy solution to decrease risks on site and make everyone feel more comfortable. If you choose to travel internationally you will be required to test to enter back into the US. You don’t want a surprise asymptotic positive test. We have had 4 international trips over the past 2 months and the hotels did a phenomenal job of managing the testing on site for attendees. It's impressive how easy it was and how quick results were delivered.
3. Reality is when people start drinking masks come off and naturally personal space becomes smaller and smaller. For that reason, push hard to keep all events outside, even if people have to bundle up. Invest in heat lamps, tent coverings, anything you can do to keep the events outside if eating and drinking is involved. Hyatt Lost Pines has great rental spaces off their lazy river for a unique outdoor bonding experience.
4. Only use hotels that require staff to wear masks. When we visited Austin in July we were uncomfortable with the lack of masks with not only guests, but almost all employees. It was great to see in September all employees from both hotels wearing masks at all times.
5. Mask shaming is not something I expected and unfortunately by day 2-3 you will see less people sticking with their initial mask approach due to this. I find this is worse on group transports and indoor meetings. Because of this try to organize smaller individual transfers and hold executives accountable to wear their mask at every indoor meeting. If leaders stick with their masks you find the group is more likely to follow suit.
6. Leadership summits are a segment that are taking off in 2022 with leaders wanting an opportunity to connect in person in outdoor settings. Be creative, get away from the traditional classroom setup. Find some properties with great indoor/outdoor pavilions that can be used as meeting space. Work with the hotel on AV solutions to help increase visibility of screens with open air setting. Omni Barton Creek is a great property who offers a great space for this option.
7. Finally inventory is tighter than ever in the market. 2020 and 2021 events have pushed to 2022 and now that most tech companies are virtual, they are recognizing the importance of in person events more than ever. Demand is up, supply is down (some hotels did not survive the pandemic and/or challenging with staffing issues). Book early and find strong partners that were empathic during the pandemic and partners during this initial fall recovery period are being flexible with attrition and actualized events.