Set the bar - safe meetings physically and psychologicallyJul 27, 2021
- By Sophie Pinkoski
As we ease into a sense of normalcy again with the availability of vaccinations, many are beginning to plan their first in-person meetings.
People are no doubt equal parts intimidated and relieved at the prospect of convening in person after extensive Zoom fatigue.
And while this milestone should be celebrated, this shouldn’t be a time to let our guard down and return to our usual pre-pandemic habits. Now is not the time to get complacent. Despite the vaccine’s effectiveness, according to the CDC, illness is still possible even if you’re fully vaccinated. On top of this, some of your colleagues may not have received the vaccine for medical or personal reasons they may not be willing to share. It’s important to keep this in mind when planning in-person meetings again, as you can’t risk making blanket assumptions.
Like returning to office, some of your team members, clients, and stakeholders may not feel comfortable meeting in person yet. It’s therefore crucial that you plan your in-person meetings with the most sensitive person in the room in mind. After all, it only takes one person to express their discomfort to give others the confidence to speak up for themselves on the issue. If there’s one person uncomfortable with a situation, chances are there are others. It’s your responsibility as a leader, therefore, to take all safety measures into account when planning these meetings.
Here’s some tips to help you plan your next in-person meeting so that it runs safely and smoothly:
Before the meeting: clear communication – First and foremost, it’s important to gauge who of your potential attendees feels comfortable meeting in person at all. These comfort levels are likely to change as pandemic protocols shift. Follow up closer to the date to confirm whether they’re still willing to attend. Based on your attendees’ comfort levels, you should set up firm safety protocols you stick to throughout the meeting. In setting these up, you should be transparent about protocols, including travel, screening processes, and necessity of vaccination to attend.
Remember: everyone’s boundaries are going to be different.
Not everyone will be willing to divulge if they’ve been fully vaccinated nor should they be asked to share that information. Be up front about the screening measures they will be subjected to so they can make an informed decision about attending in person. As for travel, restrictions are still different from place to place, so be wary of where your attendees are coming from, and remind them of safety precautions if they are planning to travel by public transit or from out of town.
Introducing the meeting – Be proactive and add safety protocol reminders before and during the meeting. It’s up to you as the leader to set the precedent and assure your attendees that their comfort levels are being taken into account. This sets the tone of the meeting and puts everyone at ease as to what to expect.
Physical set up – A physically distant meeting should still involve many of the protocols we have adapted to over the pandemic year. Choose a venue that has appropriate cleaning protocols in place and can accommodate your group’s needs. This will likely require a larger room for practical social distancing. As with any business, there should be clear social distancing markers indicating two meters of space. Strict seating arrangements throughout the meeting will also help minimize close social interaction. Consider shorter sessions to prevent everyone from lingering in one place for too long. If you can even meet outside, all the better.
Post-meeting follow-up – When all is said and done, be sure to follow up after the fact. While you’re still figuring out best practices for in-person meetings, surveying your attendees on the effectiveness of the meeting’s safety protocols will be beneficial. As ever, following up is also key to efficient contact tracing, should there be any resultant positive COVID results.
Over all, we’re all anxious to see one another in person again, and doing so should be a positive, exciting venture. Putting these planning measures in place in advance will ensure these encounters are all the more satisfying and seamless. Go forward with clarity of mind, knowing you have your attendees’ comfort and safety at heart.
Planning Your Face-to-Face Comeback, Associations Now
How to Run Safe In-Person Meetings and Workshops in the Time of Covid-19, Prevent Epidemics