Re-imagining physical meetings in the post Covid-19 era

Eleni Feleki

By Eleni Feleki, on May 20th, 2020

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These last few months the Covid-19 crisis has implied remote working and social distancing measures, putting most of the ‘’frequent flyers’’ – European citizens and professionals in the position to thinks back at the time, when planning and implementing a physical meeting in the frame of a transnational project could be a two-months’ process. From the moment we received the agenda from the organiser, one month could be considered more than enough to arrange the logistics and the even get well prepared technically, for a project meeting.

Nowadays, apart from the uncertainty of the timing that we will be allowed to organise and hold physical meetings again, it seems that this type of gathering together will not be the same.

Undoubtably, a lot of great, super professional tools exist (and a lot of new ones will evolve) that not only enable virtual meetings, or even Conferences, but also enable facilitation, interaction, brainstorming process etc. However, personal values which are so meaningful to us all (, April 10, 2020) and togetherness with friends are so critical to the human species ( that and no virtual tool can replace.

A study held by an independent global public affairs and strategic communications consultancy ‘’APCO Worldwide’’, depicted that more than 300 million Americans find themselves working from home, 83% say they miss attending in-person business meetings and conventions ( and 78% say they plan to attend as many, or more, when the threat of Covid-19 passes and it is safe.

Thus, it is now the time to begin conceptualising how our physical meetings will look like in the post Covid-19 era, in order to ensure a safe, healthy and positive experience. A clear need emerges, to shift this period of uncertainty into an opportunity for reimagination and standardization of the physical meeting processes.

So, which are our more intense concerns now, due to the Covid-19 crisis in terms of the way meetings are organised?  At the time when most of the European Transnational Programmes are designing their Strategies and Operational Programmes for the new programming period and authorities are being prepared for new adventures, the thoughts expressed below could bring in some inspiration.

  1. Do we need to introduce travel and accommodation restrictions? Meetings may be less expensive to operate if there are less breakout sessions and more virtual activities.
  2. How do we select the cities that will host meetings taking into consideration traveling options, geography, convenience of most partners, health care system preparedness etc? Such considerations will be more deeply considered now than before.
  3. Meetings’ organisers will have more preparation burden than before. They might need to propose for accommodation in specific hotels and choose venues covering certain specifications. i.e. available free m2 per participant, number of rooms based on the number of participants and the needs of the meeting, etc. Maybe the choice of choosing one hotel that hosts both accommodation and the meeting would be a good choice
  4. Social dinners and socialising. How do we select and how do we book on time in order to avoid overcrowded social activities?
  5. Outdoor social activities. A bike ride in a lake or on site visits on foot or on bikes could be options, where this is possible of course. If a transportation mean is needed, then a privately booked bus by the organizer would be a better option than taking the train or the public bus.
  6. Will we need to take temperatures from the participants as they will be arriving in the meeting hall or in the hotel venue? We are experiencing this procedure nowadays, in order to enter clinics, hospitals, airports etc. Is this a procedure that safeguards the meeting or just another ‘’check’’ on a sheet? This is a long discussion that needs solid scientific background.
  7. What will the new greeting habit be? Should air hugs and elbow bumps be the greeting of choice?
  8. Will some elements of a meeting be discussed physically, on-site and other elements will be virtually? Or should all discussions be available both virtually and physically?
  9. Sessions might be livestreamed in order to be followed by participants not presented physically.
  10. Do we change lunch and dinner habits? Food and beverage options are to be pre-packaged and buffet options might no longer be an option.
  11. Should we still print marketing material and flyers? Or these remain only in digital form in order to eliminate contact?
  12. Hand sanitizing pumps will be valuable amenity on all tables or in all swag bags.

Having said the above and trying to think on the bright side of life, it seems that meetings will adopt more sustainable habits from now on, which up to now were left in the choice of the organiser. What will still stay a big issue, is fulfillment of the GDPR issues, in order to be able to ask, keep and track information needed for health safety reasons.

The URBACT Secretariat encourages exchanges of information and ideas in times of Covid 19. The views expressed here are those of the author and the content of this blog should be understood in the context of information available on 20 May 2020.

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