8 Ways Corporate Meetings Are Adapting to COVID
Shy Coleman, Sales Executive for W Scottsdale, is accustomed to relatively short turnarounds, from groups booking to use the Arizona property to the actual event. Three months lead-time is typical normally.
But the world remains in the “new abnormal” now, particularly in the corporate events industry. Months have turned into weeks, if not days, as corporations wait until as close to a gathering as possible to reserve rooms and event space—to limit the chances of cancelling over a new spike in coronavirus cases.
“It's been a whirlwind of a year,” Coleman said. “I guess that’s the understatement of the century.”
Business is picking up at W Scottsdale, as it is in warm-weather locations able to keep groups outside as much as possible. Indoors, the property follows Marriott’s mask mandate (Maricopa County also has one) and a new filtration system bringing in mostly outside air is helping to make meetings safer.
As events materialize, certain patterns are emerging. Coleman, who is on the frontlines of this new era, shared her observations with Corporate Event News.
- Downsizing. While many destinations limit gatherings to 50 or less people, the reality is group sizes are smaller than that. Coleman says the average is about 20 attendees per meeting.
- Corporate ladder. Leading the climb back toward meeting in-person are, ironically enough, medical meetings. Coleman says medical groups comprise more than half of the corporate groups using the W Scottsdale. As you might expect, the medical crowd is strictly adhering to health guidelines.
- Last-minute. Corporate events are always fairly nimble, primarily because of the small numbers. Two weeks is not uncommon. “That's actually giving it a wide berth,” she said. “A lot of our groups are contracting and actualizing in a seven-day period.”
- Drive-in. Just as the old-school drive-in theaters are making a comeback during COVID, groups are going as far as their wheels will take them. Attendees at the W Scottsdale are typically from Arizona or California. “We definitely have seen a few groups that have flown in, but mostly that was when the numbers were much lower in the summertime,” Coleman explained.
- Distancing. W Scottsdale’s floors are adorned with playful reminders—“Spread love, not germs” is one example—about staying six feet apart. Beyond that, though, the hotel is keeping groups from any leisure travelers. Most of the meeting space is toward the back of the property and has outdoor entrances to keep interactions down to a minimum.
- All outdoors. Hotel staff spend hours each day sanitizing and cleaning rooms, but some groups are playing it extra safe by staying outside. “Groups are trending toward that, especially if they don't need a ton of audio-visual equipment,” Coleman noted.
- Dining dish. Buffets are not dead—just accompanied by plexiglass barriers and staff serving out the food. Coleman said the hotel is pushing creatively package options like Bento boxes. There is even a trend toward plated meals.
- Color-coded. The events industry is notoriously touchy-feely and not everyone is ready to give that up. Some groups are distributing different colored wristbands to indicate whether they are open to a hug or prefer an air high-five.