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Jill Stone

Your Meeting Matchmaker Fairy Godmother

To Mask or Not To Mask

in: Event Planning Advice

This pandemic is not going to end anytime soon. Event Managers are tasked with keeping up with the latest information, which includes the ever-looming, ever-changing, ever-challenging question of when to include mask mandates and what do they look like. Here are some resources for you:

  • The CDC website is a good start. At their site find information such as –
    • Guidance for organizing large events and gatherings
    • Data tracking on rates of cases and more according to county, states, demographics, etc.
    • Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions, such as whether planners are allowed to require vaccination for attendance and prevention strategies.
  • Learn how to promote mask wearing if need be. Some steps include creating a mask policy, ensuring executive buy in and knowing when to act. Check out this Society for Human Resource Management blog for more information. Another great resource is this flyer provided by Behavior Change for Good at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Always check with the health departments and CVBs of the community where you will be holding the event for an update on the latest mandates. Also check with the venue to find out where they stand on mask policies and to ensure they are following the guidelines put forth by their county.
  • Promote safety and hygiene:
    • Provide attendees with masks, hand sanitizers, etc in swag bags.
    • Require health screenings; ask about symptoms, take attendee temperatures, etc.
    • Include cleaning stations with disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, etc.
    • Limit attendance to allow for safe distancing between attendees.
    • Sanitize meeting rooms between all meetings.
  • Give special consideration to F&B:
    • Serve plated meals, and avoid buffets.
    • Serve meals in closed containers.
    • Serve beverages in containers; small bottles of wine, beer, water or canned soda.
    • Avoid guests needing to stand in a line for any of the meals.
  • Be ready:
    • In the case that someone refuses to uphold guidelines, be sure to have a plan in place. Do not rely on volunteers to enforce anything, consider hiring security staff to politely ask people to adhere to the rules set forth. And they will better be able to handle a situation should it escalate.
    • Enlist your law department to understand all the “ifs”. If someone does catch COVID during or after your event, though it may not necessarily mean they caught it due to any negligence on your part, you want to be ready in case they place blame on you. A precedent has yet to be set.

A note of caution, though organizations may feel called to impose voluntary safety measures, there are good reasons not to do so. It may create confusion, especially if other groups at the venue are operating under different guidelines. Also, if the organizer is taking on additional responsibility, in the case someone does end up with COVID, there could be an argument for pointing the finger at you and saying that you didn’t do enough. For these reasons, it is best to adhere to the current government guidelines.

Be cautious and careful out there meeting planner! And call on me if you need anyone to help you with contract negotiations in these uncertain times.

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