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What Will the Onsite Experience Look like After COVID-19?


By Nicole Tisdale of Conference Managers

The on-site experience for attendees may be very different in the future. Here is a list of items and questions to keep in mind when planning events in the wake of COVID-19.

Will social distancing still be in place?

  • Should we plan for distanced seating in the General Session and Breakouts?
    • One chair or more between each person? Have the seats physically further apart?
    • How will that work with our current room sets. Could we change the room sets to help? What is the best room set for this; rounds, theater, classroom?
    • If we have lower attendance this will be easier to implement.
  • How will it affect receptions, networking, and social events?
    • Would we not have these events?
    • Networking is an important aspect for many conference attendees.
    • If we do have these networking events, what can we do to minimize contact and maximize distancing?
  • Registration lines
    • Marking on the floor 6 ft apart.
  • Exhibit Hall
    • Exhibit booths be placed further apart and have the isles widened.

How can the hotel/convention center help?

  • Add gloved servers for all buffet meals.
  • Have more plated meal options to reduce high touch food serving items.
  • Have the venue clean each room in between sessions.
    • This would be more for sessions with tables set in classroom, rounds, or conference.
    • Having the table surfaces wiped down would show both our and the venue’s commitment to sanitation.
  • Wipe down microphones in General Session and Breakout sessions after each use.
  • Wipe down other high-touch items throughout the hotel more frequently.
  • Provide (free) hand sanitizing stations throughout the venue.

How can the the association help?

  • Implement a handshake-free meeting.
    • Indicate that in the pre-meeting emails, and have signage throughout the meeting space.
    • Order buttons or ribbons
  • Push for a hand sanitizer sponsor.
  • Have a hand sanitizer pump at every exhibit booth and everywhere else we can put one.
  • Increase signage about COVID.
    • What to do if you feel ill, The warning signs, CDC recommendations, No handshakes, Social distancing, etc.
  • Create an onsite COVID crisis plan and share with attendees before the conference.
  • Let attendees know what we are doing and the steps we are taking so they feel better about registering.
  • Add a disclaimer to registration regarding catching an illness at the conference

Virtual options?

  • Should we record all General Sessions and Breakout Sessions?
  • Should we live stream the General Sessions?
  • Need to consider costs associated with those options.
  • We could have a registration option for only virtual content.
  • Lower cost than a regular ticket, but still allows members to get their education.
  • Virtual tradeshow options?
  • Would sponsors and attendees actually be interested in this?
  • Virtual networking?
  • Could we do this through an app provider?
  • Should we offer the app to virtual attendees so they can message other onsite attendees?

Lower attendance?

  • How will this affect the conference revenue?
  • How will this affect the tradeshow?
    • Will sponsors be less receptive to buy a booth if they know we will have lower attendance?
    • What would be exhibitors’ tipping points in terms of attendance % for it to be worthwhile for them to participate in the meeting?
    • Are there any exhibitors that will cancel regardless of projected attendance numbers? E.g. international exhibitors, their own organizational travel bans, budget issues, etc.
  • Need to look at lower attendance financial scenarios.
  • Consider sending out a poll to members before the meeting to gauge interest
    • Is your organization under a travel ban?
    • If yes, what is the timeline of the travel ban?
    • Would you be interested in a virtual conference where research is presented live-streamed with the possibility of previously-recorded videos of talks?
    • What part(s) of a virtual conference would you consider attending?
Event Management


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