Attendees at their first face-to-face meeting post-COVID may feel a little overwhelmed. Recognizing this, the American Association of Feline Practitioners is creating a Recharge Room at its fall meeting. Attendees can get extra social distance and mentally recharge.
In-person events during the time of COVID-19 have the potential to be stressful for attendees who have been solo most of the past year. Staff at the American Association of Feline Practitioners recognizes this and plans to offer in-person attendees at its hybrid annual meeting in October a space to relax and recharge.
“With so many people having different comfort levels and integrating in-person back into the mix of our educational resources, we wanted to make sure that we accommodated everybody’s comfort level,” said Heather O’Steen, CAE, AAFP’s CEO. “Our Recharge Room will provide space for those that need a break.”
The group’s meeting will be in Phoenix, and when AAFP originally secured the meeting space—pre-pandemic—more in-person attendees were expected. With pandemic restrictions, people’s personal comfort levels, and virtual options reducing in-person attendance, the hybrid meeting was left with extra space.
“We have the space in order to accommodate it, so we wanted to make sure that we were able to give attendees the opportunity to have mask breaks,” O’Steen said. “If they’re not comfortable eating in the exhibit hall with a couple of people at the table, they can go to the Recharge Room and eat by themselves in order to take off their masks and not be close to others.”
The Recharge Room will have several tables spaced more than six feet apart and only one chair at the table. Attendees do not have to worry that someone will join them or invade their space.
The current plan is to follow the federal guidelines that allow vaccinated people to go unmasked while unvaccinated people must be masked. But O’Steen knows the guidelines might change.
“We will evaluate and assess the current environment prior to the meeting, and there is a chance we could require all attendees to wear a mask,” she said. In that case, the recharge room may be more popular.
The event is being held in a convention center, so the hope is to avoid attendees feeling they need to leave and return to their hotel room to get a safe mask break. The recharge room also can provide an opportunity to mentally regroup.
“I think there are lot of people who haven’t been to large gatherings yet, and mental health issues are on the rise in every industry,” O’Steen said. “So, if somebody feels overwhelmed or anxious, they can go there and take a step back.”
AAFP has also mentioned the Recharge Room in its conference registration materials to let attendees know it will be available. O’Steen said the changing dynamics of regulations related to the pandemic makes the room ever more important to ensuring comfort of attendees. “We don’t know exactly what is going to happen in three months, but we wanted to make sure that we were able to satisfy as many people’s needs as possible,” she said.