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As our industry prepares to “go live” again in the future, we all know face-to-face events will be executed very differently thanks to changing federal, state, and local regulations to minimize the spread of COVID-19, as well as new social and safety standards. In addition to understanding hotels’ best practices, it’s important that we educate ourselves on how many aspects of on-site events will need to change, including, load-in, attendee arrival, program dates, and load-out.   

These changes are all-encompassing; from the type and size of event space, room block, F&B best practices, contractual clauses (specifically relating to: attrition, force majeure, and cancellation/rebook period), and many other elements. 

Here’s a short list of items to consider as you undertake the venue selection process: 

  • Meeting Space 
    • Social distancing will require additional meeting space.  A room that would once have held your entire group may now be appropriate for 25 – 50%. Realistically, it’s possible you’ll need to quadruple your square footage. 
      • A higher number of breakout rooms may be required. 
      • Agenda patterns may need to be altered to ensure attendees are more evenly distributed between keynotes, breakouts, exhibit floors, and other spaces. 
    • Consider tentative diagrams depicting social distancing a “must” prior to signing a contract with host properties. 
  • Food and Beverage 
    • The F&B Minimum during COVID needs to be based on attendee count and not space being held. 
    • There are also some questions you’ll definitely need answered when it comes to F&B standards related to COVID: 
      • What are the hotel’s safety measures for F&B preparation, service, and execution? 
        • Is it dependent on meal type and location? 
      • How many people can be safely seated at a 72” or 60” round while having a meal? 
      • Are buffets even an option? If so, is it a good option for your particular audience? 
  • Legal Clauses / Terms and Conditions 
    • Force Majeure and Cancellation Clauses 
      • Be sure to closely evaluate newly proposed cancellation tiers. As much as event planning agencies, meeting planners, and clients are assessing their comfort level with the cancellation process, so are hotels. 
      • It is imperative to know what your rescheduling options are and the timeframe in which the hotel will require a decision. 
        • Review if the Force Majeure clause outlines any additional exceptions. 
      • EMP’s recommendation is that you have the client’s legal department discuss Force Majeure and Cancellation Clauses with your event professional in order to propose preferred inclusions and wording for each. There will be some back and forth, but at least the property will be able to review your proposal in this area. 
    • Attrition Clauses 
      • There will need to be some leniency in guest room block and F&B attrition depending on where attendees are traveling from. If global (and certain domestic) travel is prohibited, that is out of your control. Work with the hotel to determine benchmark dates for re-evaluation. 
    • Release of Space 
      • Ensure that there is verbiage specifying what space(s) can be released without financial implications if social distancing is no longer required when your program dates occur. 
  • Hotel COVID Policy 
    • Be sure to clearly understand the property’s policies on: 
      • Check-in process, use of public spaces (are masks and social distancing required?), on-site restaurants and bars (capacities and service), overall cleaning, emergency COVID plan (positive cases with hotel staff or conference attendees), etc. 

Post-COVID contractual considerations: There is high likelihood that the shift in legality of a contract will still come into play post-COVID. Since we are all more aware of the potential unknown happening, I wouldn’t be surprised if hotels, event venues, and clients keep all current verbiage in these stated clauses after the pandemic becomes more manageable.  

Have questions about venue selection or need help in planning your next event or user conference? Contact EMP at We’d love it if you’d share your thoughts and venue selection tips for post-COVID events.  

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