While virtual meetings have become a necessity in the “COVID economy,” in-person meetings and presentations are slowly starting to re-emerge. They may look and feel a bit different. Still, with proper planning, expectations and safety measures, the positive impact of meeting and building relationships in-person can resume as a fundamental aspect of what makes the direct selling industry so unique.
Many companies and organizations inside and outside the industry are already rediscovering an appreciation and the value of getting people together. One Harvard Business School study found that face-to-face meetings are 34 times more successful than simply using email. In a Forbes Insight study, 85 percent of people said they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships during in-person meetings and conferences.
“They allow salespeople to make personal connections, build rapport and deepen relationships,” says an article on ResourcefulSelling.com about in-person meetings. “Personal meetings also give salespeople better opportunities to clarify complex information, understand customers’ situations and challenges, and negotiate in good faith with winning results.”
Don’t Stifle Communication
Body language and facial expressions are critical for effective communication. While masks are worn in public, communication can be disconnected and result in misunderstandings. Maintaining clear communication in meetings and conferences can be difficult. Offer see-through face shields so attendees can better see full facial expressions.
Masks can muffle voices, so provide microphones when possible. Find other ways to allow attendees to communicate. Use video boards and whiteboards in clear view so attendees can follow along and have a visual representation of the presentations. Consider giving attendees small, individual whiteboards and markers. This can help increase engagement when close physical proximity isn’t possible. Conducting polls or Q&A sessions can also help engagement.
13-Point Checklist for Organizing Safe and Effective In-Person Meetings
Successful Meetings, a meeting and convention strategy resource provider, offers these tips for setting up safety guidelines, scheduling, and food and beverage planning.
Scheduling and Planning
1. Give attendees a bag with branded face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and a touchless door opener. This helps people feel comfortable when entering the event.
2. Health-screen attendees at the main entrance, checking temperatures and asking about health symptoms. Have attendees fill out an email health survey before the event.
3. Place sanitizing stations evenly throughout the venue space so that attendees don’t have to walk a long distance. Schedule time for cleaning and sanitizing rooms and equipment between meetings or sessions.
4. Avoid crowd bottlenecking by staggering entry and on-site registration times.
5. Have attendees pre-register enough in advance to determine room capacity for individual sessions.
6. Plan for overflow areas if rooms reach capacity. Livestream speakers in overflow rooms, or consider livestreaming the event on screens throughout the venue.
Food and Beverage
7. Traditional self-serve buffets aren’t plausible right now. Try serving individually-packaged food such as boxed lunches, snacks and bottled beverages as opposed to self-serve pitchers.
8. If you have a bar, create a batched cocktail menu or serve canned wines and bottled beers.
9. For outdoor spaces, use food trucks spaced out to avoid clustering in lines.
Organizing the Venue
10. Use large plants to create boundaries between seating setups. Large floral arrangements on tables can help create space. If you can’t separate seats, place pillows or signs to block off seats enough to create space.
12. Arrange seating at larger tables to allow for the maximum amount of space. Set up small tables with two or three seats to encourage smaller gatherings.
13. Use outdoor spaces that give attendees more room to spread out. Consider trendy seating elements like spacious outdoor igloos, huts, or yurts for smaller groups to host guests.