Latest news

The 'New Normal' for International Face to Face meetings & events

22 July 2020

Mark Saxby, Executive Director at C2events takes a look at what the future of face to face meetings might look like.

Future face to face meetings will be taking place in the ‘new normal’ Covid-19 world. So, what may that look like? I am sure it is something that everyone in the meetings industry is considering very closely.

There will be issues about international travel for some time to come. In an ideal world, we will need to test international travellers for COVID-19 accurately and quickly before departing. This may need to be replicated on arrival in a country and a standard will need to be adopted between airlines, airports and jurisdictions to facilitate this. Once in place it will help reassure otherwise potentially reluctant travellers.

Flight frequency and availability will inevitably be less and longer airport clearance times may, in the early days, necessitate an international airport hub destination and meeting space at an airport hotel to claw back travel time and minimise transfers. Hotel check in queues are likely to become longer due to an element of social distancing and online check-ins will become the norm over time. Meeting registration desks may need some form of physical screening and there may be a need to take delegates temperatures periodically to provide reassurance.

Initially, we will see less attendee registrations, so it will become standard and best practice to broadcast key sessions on a hybrid basis. Many of the techniques we are now adopting to engage virtual audiences will be used in the face to face world. The upshot will be a greater realisation of learning objectives, content focused on achieving this and a better return on investment.

There is a likelihood that some attendees may feel uncomfortable without an acceptable level of ‘social distancing’ meaning we may need larger meeting spaces and an imaginative room set up to keep attendees connected with each other.

There will be a newfound technical capability amongst audiences from hours of video conferencing and there may be an inclination for planners to build on this in live meetings. But the face to face aspect of the meeting will be valued more than ever - meaning we may want to use a balance of traditional and digital engagement techniques.

For larger meetings, apps can facilitate face to face networking and maybe a partially screened networking area might be appropriate so it can take place on a safe and acceptable basis.

It would be unusual not to consider food in the context of a meeting but the concept of a buffet seems quite odd right now so a great deal of thought will be needed to serve food in a safe, enjoyable and efficient way.

Finally, sustainability is likely to be higher up the planning agenda than ever before this is something for everyone across the whole meeting planning and delivery process because doing things as they were done before won’t be good enough.