The past 3.5 weeks have felt like an eternity for our team and it really got us thinking of what the future of our industry will bring. After all, post-9/11 – now almost twenty years ago – we saw many changes implemented we all thought were just temporary but actually became our new normal (i.e., taking your shoes off before going through security, not going to the actual gate to say goodbye to your loved ones, etc). Undoubtedly, changes are upon us already, and while these adjustments feel anything but ‘normal’, we will all acclimate in a number of ways we perhaps thought impossible before.

So, what would this look like? What can we (planners) plan for?

[Before we begin, though, I have broken up this post into several I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks – just to keep things digestible!]

This week we’ll talk about HOW we can help get the public to feel safe again in attending large gatherings or even sitting next to someone in a crowded restaurant.

First and foremost, the expectation will be that if you’re NOT feeling well, you’ll STAY HOME! After all, you’ll expect others to do the same out of safety and courtesy. That said, this will be messaged in all pre-meeting materials.

Venues dedicated to large events will own temperature reading systems similar to metal detectors that can flag any attendee with an above-normal temperature. All attendees will be given a wristband to wear to show they’ve passed the temperature reading test initially; maybe over time, this will only happen during cold and flu season. A new standard item in our event emergency kits will be face masks.

For conferences, attendees will have easy access to self-dispensing hand sanitizers before entering each enclosed space. Conferences with a defined look will brand these consoles so as to fit into the overall look and flow of the event. When the conference is at a smaller venue, the meeting planner will supply hand sanitizer as part of the welcome bag. Portable hand sanitizer, branded face masks and even branded gloves will become the norm of most meetings promotional items.

Networking has changed indefinitely already; people will rely on more digital business card exchanges versus shaking hands. In the short-term, anywhere long queuing is to be expected, there will likely be floor clings and signage reminding attendees of safe social distances. Elevators will not fill to the max to allow ample personal space.

The reality is, although people long to be with one another again, it’s going to take awhile before they are truly ready. Much of this will depend on the media and evidence of a flattened curve, but the expectation is people will gently break back in with personal engagements like weddings and small corporate events.

Next week, we’ll discuss what changes we expect to see made at the hotel-level and in restaurants.