Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can Planner's "fist bump" their way to a germ free event?

As I am writing this, I am sipping my piping hot cold and flu beverage, the overpowering scent of Vicks Vapor Rub lingering in the air. My eyes are running, my voice is raspy and the tickle in my throat has now manifested itself as a full blown, lung emptying cough which terrifies Ozzie, my Shi Tzu, every time I let loose. He looks at me with those big brown eyes and I am sure he is thinking, “If she does that one more time I am going to do something nasty in her nicest shoes”.

Can you imagine if I had an event or conference to attend? The big question is…..after paying hundreds of dollars in registration fees, purchasing airline tickets, making travel arrangements, etc. would I still go….. feeling like I do?

The correct answer is “no”, but I am sure that in the real world, most would still attend, bringing with them their cold or flu virus as carry on baggage.

How can we, as conference and event planners, protect our attendee’s from the cold and flu virus without coming across as over- anxious germaphobes?

The truth is, there are many small ways with which we can protect our guests without appearing intrusive.

Think like a cruise ship! – Cruise ship management and staff have to constantly be thinking of ways to keep their guests healthy. Hand sanitizers are mounted everywhere, specifically at entrances to restaurants and bars. You can do the same at your event by providing sanitizers throughout the conference or event space. Offer attendees mini pen sized sanitizer pumps at your registration desk that they can drop into their purse or briefcase; place boxes of tissue in restrooms and sitting areas.

Having a buffet? Pre roll your cutlery in a cloth napkin – Have catering staff offer the wrapped cutlery and plate to guests at the entrance to the buffet line thus minimizing the transfer of germs…another cruise ship strategy. Better yet, place the cutlery on the table.

Immune boosting beverages – Instead of the traditional coffee break menu items, consider adding items such as orange or cranberry juice (source of vitamin C) and Green tea (anti-oxidant). Provide plenty of water stations throughout your venue to keep your attendee’s hydrated.

Fist bumps or hand shakes? – Howie Mandel fist bumps as a way to avoid germs. It is perfectly fine for Howie Mandel, but I think that fist bumps have a weak position in corporate culture. They infer a level of familiarity that may not be appropriate. Can you imagine being introduced to the CEO of a company (that you are hoping will employ you) and instead of reaching forward to grasp his/her hand…you throw out a casual fist bump? Don’t forsake the traditional handshake; instead wash your hands often, using soap and water, vigorously rubbing your hands together for the length of time it takes to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Placing signage in the restrooms encouraging hand washing and how it prevents the spread of germs, may also be helpful. I know we are all grownups, but sometimes reminders can make a difference.

Touch Screens – Have you ever visited your ATM and wondered what may be lurking on the keypad? The same can be true at your touch screen event kiosk. Keep germs at bay by frequently wiping down the touch screen and/or keypad.

Cancellation policy – Does your event have a cancellation policy? Your cancellation policy should be simple and straightforward and should clearly state alternatives, i.e. substitution of attendee, full and/or partial refunds, credits.

None of the strategies I mentioned were anything new or exciting, but are often overlooked. We consider our attendee’s comfort when planning our events, we should also consider their health.

Today's article brought to you by the common cold....*cough* cough*