As the meeting and events industry waits for business to return to pre-pandemic levels, no one is living in the past. Event professionals have discovered new opportunities, bolstered by the emergence of virtual technology — all with an ever-present focus on safety.
Virtual events and hybrid meetings are here to stay, given the opportunity they provide to safely and effectively gather together in large groups. Cvent recently published a detailed eBook to help hotels and venues build back trust and ensure that planners and suppliers feel safe and secure.
Here, we give an overview of five ways that hotel marketers and hospitality professionals can convey that they’re taking necessary steps to make safer meetings top of mind for everyone involved — from prospective planners and attendees, to vendors and staff.
1. REFOCUS YOUR MARKETING AROUND SAFE AND RESPONSIBLE EVENTS
It’s not enough to simply follow official CDC guidelines and implement safer meeting protocols if no one knows your hotel or venue is taking these measures. Using digital marketing to communicate actions being taken around safety policies can give your venue a competitive advantage over those that might not show clearly how they’ve committed to holding safer events.
“If a venue’s not communicating to me all these unique and very specific safety tasks and commitments, then they might not be perceived as safe,” said Trevor Lynn, senior director, Product Marketing for Cvent. “If one hotel gives me 50 safety protocols and actions … and the other one shows 10, that’s a disadvantage.”
A hotel’s marketing message should communicate to planners that all current Covid-19 regulations are being followed. Additionally, it should include details on specific actions being taken to make events safe, such as social distancing and mask policies, touchless services offered, and room cleanliness.
Venues can cover their safety policies in blog posts, email marketing, or even develop microsites to share testimonials from event professionals and satisfied guests about their experiences. Sharing photos of successful hybrid events on social media can also be a powerful way to show your hotel or venue is taking safety seriously.
2. CONFIGURE THE EVENT SPACE TO ACCOMMODATE SAFETY AND SOCIAL DISTANCING
While event space layouts have always been important, knowing whether a venue can accommodate groups with plenty of room to social distance is now a key consideration for planners. Venues are the experts in their own spaces and know best how to reconfigure if necessary, while suppliers can help successfully optimize layouts for a safe event.
Online tools can boost confidence if an in-person visit isn’t possible. According to the 2021 Cvent Q1 Planner Sentiment Survey, 60 percent of planners would consider booking a hybrid event venue even if they could only see the space online.
Real-time diagramming can help planners feel confident that an event is meeting safety and spacing regulations. Photo-realistic 3D visuals help to picture how everything is spaced out and what adjustments need to be made. Specific tools, such as Cvent’s Event Diagramming software, can be effective in creating such visuals and mock-ups. “Some of it is the optics of having to know where the hand sanitizing stations are going to go, and the signage,” said Paulina Giusti, senior manager, Meeting and Events for Cvent. “But most of all I love leveraging 3D technology to see the space before I get there, because it informs so much of my site visit.”
3. EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY AND HYBRID EVENTS
“We knew we wanted to go hybrid because we needed to be able to connect with our constituents and be able to move forward,” said Melinda Burdette, director of events for Meeting Professionals International (MPI). “We were bold in our commitment to move forward with an in-person and a fully live, digital event.”
Hybrid events have seen mass adoption over the last year in order to accommodate the safety preferences of attendees and planners. However, a successful hybrid event requires the right infrastructure and technology to ensure everything goes smoothly.
A year ago, internet speed and bandwidth restrictions might not have been core competencies for planners. By now, event professionals have been forced to utilize technology to a much greater extent — and they expect the same from venues.
Venues need to make sure they’re up to the task in meeting event professionals’ virtual requirements like AV capability, tech support, and adequate internet bandwidth. Technology is now just as important as a venue’s safety standards, and it needs to be uniform, as well.
4. RETHINK FOOD AND BEVERAGE OPTIONS
Lavish buffet spreads aren’t necessarily a thing of the past, but standards have shifted over the past year as safety has become paramount. For the time being, best practices require putting communal serving stations on the backburner and coming up with new food and beverage ideas.
Alternatives could include using digital menus, serving individually wrapped meals like bagged lunches or bento boxes, and making sure tables and guests are generously spaced, with outdoor seating being an added plus. Some planners are also using a host property’s restaurants to go toward a venue’s food and beverage minimum.
“We’ve gotten very creative, and I think most people have in this environment,” said Kathy Masterson, director of sales at Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach. “Something as simple as a continental breakfast: Usually, it has a fruit display and muffins and danishes and all of these things that are just left out with tongs to serve it. We’re actually individually packaging those items now into plastic containers.”
5. LEVERAGE YOUR DMO OR CVB
Convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) promote both business and leisure travel in their own areas, which can help attract events and people to your hotel or venue.
“CVBs like ours should be focused on re-introducing people to many great things about the area, and work to bring events back,” said Andrea Timbes, CRM administrator and Cvent Community Advocate at Visit Fort Worth.
Strengthening relationships with these organizations can be key to rebuilding group business. They can put planners in touch with the right people at hotels and venues and can help create a safer visit to your venue — from airport, to lobby, to event. They can also be good sources of up-to-date information on an area’s shifting Covid-19 regulations.
STEPS YOU CAN TAKE NOW for safer meetings and events
- Communicate your hotel or venue’s safety protocols everywhere you promote your hotel — especially in planner sourcing channels.
- Utilize event space diagramming to accommodate safer meetings and social distancing configurations.
- Build partnerships based on collaboration, flexibility, and expertise in terms of space, technology, and hospitality.
- Create food and beverage options that accentuate safety on your property. If you have on-site restaurants, consider a voucher for F&B minimums.
- Leverage CVBs and DMOs to provide expert guidance and align messaging to drive group business to the region.