Creative Meeting Formats Flourish During COVID-19

The pandemic has meeting professionals exploring new event formats. From drive-in meetings to year-round virtual convention centers, they’re doing what it takes to keep attendees safe and engaged.

COVID-19 has taught meeting professionals a lot of things. At the top of the list for many is that creativity is required.

And a lot of that outside-the-box thinking has come to life in terms of re-imagined meeting formats. Here is a look at how a few organizations—both inside and outside of the association space—have delivered new formats that work in the current environment.

Drive-In Meeting

Drive-in movies have been making a comeback this summer due to coronavirus, so it was only a matter of time before meetings were also held using a drive-in format. Back in April, Wisconsin’s Richmond Electric Cooperative held its annual meeting in the parking lot of its service center, where vehicles and equipment are typically stored. Members were invited to park and stay in their vehicles the entire meeting, while listening to the proceedings on their car radios. Another creative element: Voting was done by horn honks—short and quick for “Aye;” long and loud for “Nay.”

“It was pretty strange to have everyone in their cars and not have the chance to sit and chat with them,” said Amy Martin, the co-op’s chief financial officer, in an article posted on the NRECA website. “But it was so nice to still see everyone’s smiling faces through the windows. You can just tell everyone is happy to be here and together.”

Year-Round Expo

Due to the success of its United Fresh 2020 Live! virtual conference in June, the United Fresh Produce Association announced [PDF] that it would transition the platform it used for that meeting to United Fresh LIVE! 365. “We basically built a year-round convention center,” John Toner, United Fresh’s vice president of convention and industry collaboration, told Convene magazine.

Not only does the platform include an online marketplace where buyers can source new products and solutions from hundreds of vendors, but it also features ongoing education in the form of webinars, conference programming, and networking opportunities for the global produce industry. “It allows [members] to have a place to interact, and have a voice, and do the social things that we can’t do together as well as have some education tied in,” Amanda Griffin, IOM, United Fresh’s vice president of education and program management, told Convene.

The Great Outdoors

The Tacoma Executives Association is a networking group for business owners and managers in Tacoma/Pierce County, Washington. Throughout the summer, TEA has been hosting socially distanced outdoor luncheons, as well as happy hours, for members.

Later this month, the St. Clair Beekeepers Association will also hold an outdoor meeting. Attendees will be required to wear face masks and are encouraged to bring a lawn chair, food and beverages of their choice, and most important—their “protective bee clothing to observe or help with hive inspections and demonstrations.”

Given restrictions in place due to COVID-19, what new meeting formats have you tried already or currently have in the works? Please share in the comments.

Wisconsin’s Richmond Electric Cooperative held a parking-lot meeting back in April. (Alexis Dunnum/NRECA)

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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