Do you have a plan to assess your post-pandemic meeting? Have you considered that you may need to reinvent it?
Now, while we are floating in uncertainty, is the time to decide how you will assess your meeting through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ll be a step ahead when we get the all-clear signal.
What exactly will be the all-clear signal? It’s impossible to pin down. All clear in rural America may be different from all clear in urban Europe. For purposes of this list, I define the all-clear signal when all Americans are permitted to roam freely.
As with all aspects of meeting planning, each planner must customize for her/his target audience. Read the following as prompts and apply them appropriately.
Possible Post-Pandemic Scenarios
Your meeting could be affected by how the culture as a whole responds (below). Your target audience may respond differently.
- People and the economy quickly return to similar pre-pandemic lifestyle. This was BIG but, generally, people don't like change and are happy to be back to their familiar ways.
- People and the economy slowly return to similar pre-pandemic lifestyle. We don't see a change until six to 12 months after the all clear.
- People are still scared out of their wits and are very hesitant to get back at it. They would rather change their lifestyles permanently than return to being in close contact with others.
- There are lots of changes that affect how people live—some good, some bad—making it challenging to know what to do.
- All of the above
Keys to Success
- Know your target audience. Decide how you will determine if you need to reevaluate.
- Make all decisions based on your organization's (or meeting’s) mission and your target audience's tendencies.
- Don’t plan in a bubble. Organization staff and/or leadership should not be the only ones making decisions about future meetings. You must ask your target audience(s).
- Making a decision based exclusively on the bottom line may not be the best decision. Identify and consider as many pros and cons as possible. A bad outcome could cost the organization much more than decreased income.
- Be open-minded and creative. If thinking outside of the box doesn't come naturally, brainstorm with an impartial planner.
What to Think About
- Is your meeting objective still relevant? Defend it.
- How will you identify your new objective and then the best ways to modify your meeting to meet the new objective?
- How will you measure the ROI of meeting vs. not meeting? Who will make the final decision? What will that be based on?
- Target Audience/Participants
- In general, people dislike change and inconvenience. How will this influence post-pandemic meetings?
- How will you determine whether face-to-face meetings are still the best model to further your mission and meet your target audience's expectations? In the near future? Down the road?
- How will you ensure and convey safety when you meet? Perception will be more important than reality.
- How will you gently, but firmly, describe attendee expectations for participation? (e.g. no touching, no giveaways from booths)
- Based on the month it's scheduled, how will you decide to hold it, postpone it or cancel it? How will you determine when your target audience is ready to attend a meeting?
- What policies do you need to review/rewrite? (e.g. registration, cancellation, refund.)
- If you will not be able to hold your face-to-face meeting, how will you recoup the income, the goodwill, the connections, etc.?
- If your face-to-face meeting was just scraping by before this, how will you decide what your post-pandemic meeting will look like?
- What kinds of insurance might you need to add to your policy to cover yet unknown post-pandemic issues?
- How will you modify signed venue and supplier contracts? What about those for future meetings?
- How will venue and supplier services be affected in regards to your meeting? How will this impact your meeting?
- How will you decide if your target audience will be comfortable with traditional room sets or whether you’ll need to find more space to accommodate increased personal distance. (e.g. six per 60 inches banquet table; theater set with 3 feet between chairs)
- What if it's impossible to reschedule even if you want to? What is your back-up plan? If all spring and summer 2020 meetings are moved to the fall, space will eventually run tight.
- Once you determine your target audience is ready to attend a face-to-face meeting, how will you determine what will make your meeting not to be missed?
- How will you open your post-pandemic meeting? (e.g. who will kick it off, address the pandemic and its fallout, and then tie it all together into the rest of the program’s purpose?)
- How do you communicate succinctly and sensitively? Now, when you market your meeting, when you communicate with registrants pre-meeting and during the meeting?
- Out of the Box
- How can you turn this situation into something good for your organization, your target audience and/or your industry?
- How can you leverage other's meetings and/or resources?
- How can you determine if a hybrid meeting would be beneficial?
- How can you change a convention model to a workshop series or a shorter convention?
- How can you design non-meeting sponsorships?
- What About You?
- What can you do right now that will make you better prepared to launch into our new normal?
- How will prioritize your tasks?
- How will you prepare your team/office? What will your first day in the office look like? (Consider a half day for reconnecting, storytelling and prioritizing.)
- How will you allay fears for yourself, your colleagues/members and suppliers?