Hailed as the world’s leading business strategist, award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Think Like a Futurist;” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty;” and “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap.” He is also the president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships. His website is FuturistsSpeakers.com.
COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the dynamics of the meetings and events industry for the foreseeable future, putting a temporary squeeze on travel and group gatherings. But as ever, innovative event planners, destination management companies, and hospitality providers continue to find clever ways to work around current challenges and successfully adapt in turn. Following, you’ll find 10 ways that meeting and event venues are currently innovating around challenges, creating clever ways to draw audiences back and finding solutions for staying one step ahead of the curve. Implement them across your property or destination, and you too will be well-poised to capitalize on the industry boom when interest in live programming inevitably comes rushing back.
HEIGHTENED SAFETY MEASURES
Venues are increasingly putting a premium on individual safety and putting attendees’ minds at ease. Steps being taken include extensive cleaning measures, social distancing solutions, temperature checks, health assessments and scans, and the on-site presence of medical professionals. Likewise, event planners are increasingly working with DMCs and hospitality providers to ensure that compliance is maintained, and that emergency response solutions are on-hand.
CERTIFICATION AND REVIEW
Several destinations are working in tandem with city officials to introduce certification programs — complete with public-facing awards and stickers — and highlight venues that adhere to heightened health care and safety standards. Likewise, they’re also teaming up with industry leaders to craft risk mitigation tools and educational materials that can help you assess potential areas of concern.
DIGITAL AND HYBRID PROGRAMMING
More event hosts are switching to hybrid online/real-world content and programs, and tapping into technology and streaming digital platforms to deliver content in contactless format. As a result, you can expect more spaced out seating at events, lower-capacity crowds, and more audience networking and interaction using apps, software programs and online services. Rooms will hold fewer participants at any given time, with growing numbers of attendees encouraged to tune in online, or livestream keynote and breakout presentations.
AUGMENTED AND VIRTUAL REALITY SOLUTIONS
Tools such as augmented reality (AR), which superimposes digital content over real-world scenes, and virtual reality (VR), which immerses users in 3D computer-simulated environments, are growing in prominence as well. Going forward, expect more destinations and venues to introduce high-tech headsets, digitally enhanced apps and wearable devices as a means of facilitating audience interaction, conducting site tours, and enabling shared entertainment or event experiences.
MORE OUTDOOR EXPERIENCES
From al fresco dining to beach and waterfront activities, more properties are pushing for events that take place outside in nature, as opposed to indoor within enclosed environments. Similarly, more event planners are considering resort buy-outs, experiential destinations and outdoor venues as destinations for their get-togethers.
Providers that offer catering are growingly looking to space out dining areas, stagger dining groups, deliver individualized plates to each guest, and regroup around themed experiences (“A Taste of Napa”) designed to pique audiences’ interests. In addition, they’re also looking to house food service solutions in larger open-air areas, such as open fields, parking lots, parks and festival grounds, and offer guests greater mobility by offering to-go drinking and dining options. Sustainability is also continuing to take top billing, as — even in an age of single-use, disposable items — more venues are looking for ways to go green as well.
Some properties are placing colored tape 6 feet apart on the floor so attendees don’t crowd registration lines. But many forward-thinking destinations are also introducing online and digital alternatives, such as operating via text message or allowing guests to scan QR codes to avoid direct one-to-one contact.
PROMOTING EMPLOYEE HEALTH
Both event venues and organizers are growingly adopting flexible attendance and sick leave policies, and cross-training staff to cover for colleagues who are encouraged to stay home if ill or high-risk. Similarly, they’re also working to create quarantine areas and action plans with local health departments and hospitals in the event individuals come down ill. Many are turning to automated platforms to quickly share information and news updates with staffers as well.
FLEXIBLE STAFFING AND SHIFTS
To limit staff interaction and contact, myriad event venues are also bringing fewer workers on-site at any given time, and introducing staggered shift schedules to minimize exposure. Workers who aren’t needed at the property are also increasingly being encouraged to telecommute and work virtually.
Smaller, more intimate experiences and mid-size events structured around the best that local regions have to offer look to grow in prominence going forward at the expense of far-flung excursions to exotic destinations and grand-scale gatherings. Noting this, venues are increasingly adapting to provide all sorts of bite-sized, turnkey group programs and experiences that promote the features that make their properties and surrounding locales unique. | AC&F |