On the other side
One thing is for certain post any crisis: The new norm will emerge and whatever that is, we will have no choice but to adapt and move forward.
Everything including how we greet one another, how we interact, how we share meals, manage speakers, and organize logistics will change. We will need to modify contract verbiage to address unforeseen cancellations due to epidemic and pandemic outbreaks. We may not be able to bring in speakers and VIPs so easily as some may be reluctant to address large crowds for fear of contracting COVID-19 or another virus.
According to David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and frequent public speaker who studies how neuroscience affects behavior. "Humans crave physical interaction with other humans. We want to be part of a tribe of other humans. That's baked into our neuroscience. Our brains thrive around being around people who are just like us."
Getting back to normal will take some time, and events will look very different in the interim. Expect more sophisticated virtual participation options, smaller satellite events complementing larger gatherings, and people carefully examining the return on investment from attending. Let's explore the NEW NORMAL.
Virtual participation in meetings & events
There's no doubt that business travel and meetings will look very different when we come through the other side of this crisis. Smart event organizers also realize that budgets are tightening so they'd better offer compelling virtual participation options.
More organizations will realize they can offer a hybrid -- a live event plus the option to participate virtually. From what I have been hearing, a lot of events will go to a dual model.
Hybrid events will help the industry steadily gain traction as the world waits for a COVID-19 vaccine or other indications that it's truly safe to meet in large groups.
Even if the travel ban is lifted, meetings are allowed to take place, we limit physical contact, and we have the virus under control, we as attendees are going to have to have CONFIDENCE that we'll be in a safe environment. A lot of people won't feel comfortable coming to events because of the risk, even though it might be small.
Despite the fear, the events business will come roaring back. How soon, no one can predict
The importance of human interaction has now more than ever been illustrated to us. Yes, we can survive without human interaction but it's difficult. Even if you just see someone for 10 minutes and go for a walk with them and stay 10 feet apart, that recharges your battery.
You get that same recharge when you see your colleagues and interact face-to-face. You just can't get that in a Zoom meeting."
Satellite events: Face-to face interaction with less danger
We also can expect smaller satellite events complementing larger gatherings. There could be a main event in Chicago, however, there would be smaller satellite meetings in other cities.
The most important aspect of a physical meeting will be value. With budgets tight and attendees still wary of the danger of the virus, meetings and events must add serious value to attract people.
Hotels could have lower staff due to furloughs and layoffs
The American Hotel & Motel Association is reporting that two out of three hotels are currently operating with less than half the staff they had pre-COVID-19, and many don't expect to return to normal levels until at least 2021. Meeting professionals will need to carefully spell out specific staffing in their hotel contracts for meetings planned through 2021.
Flying during the coronavirus pandemic is very different from what it used to be
Southwest Airlines have completely eliminated food service on flights shorter than 250 miles. Delta has introduced a fog machine that disinfects its planes after every flight. Many large airports have installed a stronger air filtration system that uses bipolar ionization technology to neutralize pathogens.
The U.S. Travel Association put out their guidelines to include a layered approach to safety for travel businesses, combining transmission barriers (such as touchless payment systems, social distancing, and protective equipment), enhanced sanitation (which includes new policies, training, and technologies), and health screening, and best practices in food and beverage service.
I would like to thank Mollie Daniels (5 years old) and Mia Sansone (9 years old), for getting our neighborhood through phase one of the quarantine. Mollie and Mia are daughters of friends of mine.
They provided cheer by coloring the sidewalks with chalk and provided much needed calmness for the community with their artwork on display in front of their houses for everyone to enjoy as they walked the streets. I am proud of our younger generation who provided the community with something bright during our darkest times.
I am happy and encouraged about the world's future and know it's in good hands with your generation.
• Jim Grillo, CMP, is founder and president of hereschicago.com, Chicago's online event and meeting planning resource.