The Return of Live Events: “Limited Contact Will Be a Challenge”

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The Return of Live Events: “Limited Contact Will Be a Challenge”

By Blair Potter | May 21, 2020

Preventing attendee-to-attendee coronavirus transmission and meeting-specific health and sanitization concerns are top of mind as hotels and convention centers prepare for the return of live events.

“We are modifying meeting and event spaces to allow for limited touch and proper social distancing,” says Cara Banasch, vice president of sales for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “In a business where we welcome, shake hands and host others, limited contact will be a challenge. Everyone will need to participate to ensure effectiveness.”

Chandra Allison (MPI New Jersey Chapter), senior vice president of sales for The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, says the Congress Center and Sands Expo will have non-invasive thermal scanners that will measure the temperatures of those walking by from afar. (The Venetian recently announced that it will resume operations on June 1.)

“This allows us to monitor for attendees who may be sick, where our EMTs on staff can discreetly provide secondary screenings and, if necessary, direct them to further medical treatment following guidelines of our local health authorities,” she says.

“In a business where we welcome, shake hands and host others, limited contact will be a challenge.”

Chicago’s McCormick Place has a medical advisor on staff training security, fire safety and EMT personnel on how to identify and respond to individuals suspected of being infected with the coronavirus.

“Additionally, we have increased the outside air intake/air change rate during event hours,” says David Winters, chief operating officer for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which manages McCormick Place.

Dan Surette (MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter), chief sales officer for Omni Hotels & Resorts—which offers the robust Omni Safe & Clean initiative—says proper planning will require more collaboration than ever. 

“Advance communication and planning with our convention services teams to ensure we are of shared expectations will be imperative,” he says. “Similarly, thorough and advance communication with attendees so that they can participate and understand their part in keeping themselves and others safe will need to be a high priority.”

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Allison says as part of a review of existing protocols for meetings and trade shows, one area of focus has been banquets.

“For now, all food will be served individually plated, and other services (like coffee and snack items) will be provided by an attendant,” she says. “We have taken this opportunity to introduce new menu options for meetings that are individually packaged or that better align with these new service styles.”

Allison suggests thinking through the attendee journey when planning for healthy meeting environments going forward.

“Once you’ve mapped out consistent activities from beginning to end, you can start to identify what we call ‘touchpoints,’” she says. “We have found that there are areas that are sometimes taken for granted. For each aspect of a meeting, there is often an obvious non-contact or minimal-contact approach. Technology also gives us plenty of options. Some innovations have been around for a while, like the scanning of attendee badges in lieu of handing out business cards. Other simple ideas address areas you might not have considered. For instance, one of our team members identified that an A/V tech who is setting up computers for a trade show registration desk often briefly touches every keyboard to log it in. We suggest using a fresh piece of transparent plastic film over each keyboard, which not only eliminates the transfer of germs, but also eliminates the need to spray a keyboard as often with sanitizer, which can potentially shorten its lifespan.”

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Allison says that while many new health and wellness initiatives have been created out of necessity and urgency, they may have a lasting, positive impact on the world of live events.

“Even before the pandemic emerged, we saw a bigger focus on attendee wellness from the industry,” she says. “We have found that meetings bring people out of their day-to-day routines, and they’re open to new ideas about health and wellness.”

Allison says The Venetian staff has started a new, unexpected tradition apropos for the age of COVID-19.

“In developing our ‘Venetian Clean’ guidelines, we quickly identified that while wearing a face mask, it becomes difficult to share a warm smile with our guests,” she says. “In the absence of this moment of connection, we have adopted a new greeting to share with guests and one another—a single hand over our hearts. We always say that The Venetian was inspired by love and the spirit of Italy. This new tradition is the perfect nod to our Italian heritage. Now more than ever, we are committed to sharing our love as much as possible.”

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash



Blair Potter
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is managing editor for The Meeting Professional. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).