“There is no playbook for this” was a sentiment shared by Jill Delaney, president and CEO of Discover Albany, during Discover Albany’s webinar on events in a post COVID-19 era. This sentiment brought industry professionals together to discuss what future events might look like. From supporting local businesses to sanitation procedures and food and beverage options, the webinar discussed re-opening procedures and how professionals can come together to create a new, post-COVID-19 playbook.
Figuring it out Together
We all know what a difficult time this has been for the industry. Tourism took a sudden, grueling hit in March. Even though gatherings came to a screeching halt in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, meeting professionals have been busy working together to figure out next steps. Amelia Barry, sales manager at Albany Capital Center, stressed the importance of client conversations. She said that while planners and suppliers normally have all the answers based on experience and insight, in these unprecedented times, “the conversations we are having with clients are just as helpful for us; they are asking questions we haven’t heard before.” In a time where there is no playbook, working with clients can be a learning experience that will be invaluable as the industry moves forward.
Food and Beverage
Owner and President of Mazzone Hospitality, Angelo Mazzone, shared measures his company would be implementing at events to ensure safe conditions without compromising on quality. While Mazzone admitted that factors such as space between tables, occupancy levels and social distancing at tables are still unknown, he does have ideas about food presentation and prep. Lunch options will include a choice of packaged entrees, salads and sides that guests can pick up. This reduces contact between guests and staff and also ensures a fast-moving service.
‘Buffets the way they were are a thing of the past’ according to Mazzone. That doesn’t mean buffets will disappear, but Mazzone predicts that ‘customers will never be able to handle food again,’ meaning that staff will have to serve everything, ideally behind a sneeze-guard. In terms of beautiful presentation, which is an important part of food and beverage, Mazzone suggests keeping non-food presentations the same and working with closed packaging meals to ensure presentation standards remain high.
To enable venues to remain nimble for future events, Albany Capital Center is introducing an app that would incorporate printed materials, maps and a visitors guide into a virtual landscape. Planners will also be able to upload their own programs and other printed materials to reduce the amount of printed materials that are being given to attendees. Bonus: information will be up-to-date, even if COVID-19 continues to disrupt. If a speaker gets sick or nearby activities aren’t open, you can change your schedule easily and immediately. The ability to stay nimble is a priority for Delaney.
Local and Sustainable
While the focus recently has been solely on COVID-19, supporting local businesses and sustainability is still a priority for planners. Even when planning pre-packaged food, Mazzonne said recyclable materials could make them an earth-friendly choice.
Similarly, Doug McClaine, general manager at Albany Capital Center, prioritizes community resource, opting for a local distillery’s cleaning products instead of a corporate brand.