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| Written by Sara O'Neil

10 Considerations for Sourcing In-Person and Hybrid Events in 2021

Did you know that many planners are already preparing for in-person meetings and hybrid events?

While many event planners and hosts are shy to book new meetings, conferences, and hybrid events, our global procurement team is starting to see market compression and an increase in demand for both 2021 and 2022. Many top venues have new safety protocols and are offering lenient cancelation policies. Don’t get left behind! 

 “With an increased demand, coupled with the reality that physical distancing requirements require unique space allocations, we are seeing a more dynamic relationship between sourcing and event design,” says Denise Farrell, Director Global Procurement for M&IW. “This shift is creating a powerful sourcing environment that deserves additional, dedicated attention.”

To aid in this transition, we decided to bring more attention to this partnership. Below are the top 10 vital considerations our global procurement experts and event designers consider “new and emerging” when it comes to sourcing your near-future hybrid events. 

1. Start evaluating your plans for future meetings; at least through 2021

A risk assessment can help you decide how, when, where and why to have your meeting or hybrid event.  Take into consideration the goals of the meeting and detail out the impact on your business or organization and attendee involvement.  As we move through the next year, meetings will take on a different look and feel. Get creative and discover ways you can achieve the goal. It may be time to investigate the pros and cons of one in-person event, a few drivable regional events, or a unique hybrid event. Creativity and flexibility will win, verses avoiding the event all together

2. Don’t delay the sourcing process for hybrid events in 2021

With high compression in 2021, begin sourcing sooner rather than later to find appropriate availability. Especially, with physical distancing requirements. Many groups will be in the same situation and considering the same space options. Venues will be working to reschedule city-wide conventions and congresses many of which have been uprooted from their ‘normal’ time of year so layering them into an already full calendar will be tricky. This will leave fewer openings for meetings of various sizes. It may also be time to consider unique venues or hotels that are not as common.

3. Remember size matters, even smaller meetings are impacted

The standard practice of sourcing a small meeting 3-4 months prior to preferred meeting dates will be challenging. It is recommended to search further in advance to secure better pricing and take advantage of current promotions. The procurement process will take longer to find a venue match for new requirements and negotiate the contract terms. Being ready to move forward will be critical to avoid the loss of availability – rooms and space holds will not be common.

4. Be flexible when it comes to dates and patterns

Consider multiple dates that would be acceptable to host this meeting or hybrid event and be open to alternate patterns to find options at reasonable prices. You may need to consider a few possible cities to accommodate the meeting, especially when considering travel restrictions between countries.  Getting out in front of the curve to investigate the possibilities will provide more options to consider.  

5. Account for any current contractual obligations

Due to the movement of a 2020 meeting, many have cancellation credits with expiration dates that need to be taken advantage of to offset those penalties.  Hotels may consider extending these opportunities, yet still, only have a limited number of dates where rooms and space are available. Addressing these situations in the short run is imperative.

6. Consider how RFPs need to evolve when sourcing for 2021

RFPs need to dive deeper into these new practices to provide some guidance for making decisions on venues where your attendees will feel the most secure. Adding questions on new cleanliness protocols, arrival experiences, guest room protocols, changes to food and beverage outlets as well as service during the group functions are key. Requesting additional space to take physical distancing guidelines into consideration and understand from the hotel how this is accommodated with their unique meeting design.

7. Think about the attendee experience you want to create

With capacity charts not necessarily being accurate based on physical distancing requirements, how can planners understand space needs based on their meeting specifications? It is about more than tables and chairs, it about creating a safe, enjoyable and inviting space for your attendees. Our event designers are leveraging EventVisualizer, a 3D diagramming software to demonstrate different seating arrangements, room sets, stages and production. Virtually walk through your space to get a sense of the flow and energy it creates to give you both peace of mind and confidence in your decision. . 

8. Decide when it makes sense to engage professional event designers 

Event design is no longer an afterthought to sourcing. Because spacing requirements are of great consideration when sourcing and with hotel capacity charts being out of date for physical distancing requirements, it may be a good idea to engage a professional event designer. Using design tools, a professional will be able to create a rendering and floor layout of your physical distanced event in the actual space you are sourcing. This will provide you with a better evaluation of what space may be the best fit for your program.

9. Contract for changing space needs regarding physical distancing requirements

What happens if a hotel is unwilling to take physically distancing into account for a program in late 2021?  It will be imperative for the contract to state clearly what space is being contracted to accommodate for the distancing that the client and hotel agree to.  Should distancing be in question based on the future date of the meeting, the contract should address when the space requirements need to be altered i,e, on a selected date or if a law or ordinance is enacted.  Should the hotel be unable to meet the needs of the group at that details on remedy should be documented in your contract.

10. Consult sourcing professionals when it comes to contract clauses

Ensure all the attrition, cancelation, force majeure, and deposit clauses are aligned to address another unforeseen event. A robust review of the contract will provide a secure feeling that risks have been reviewed and mitigated as part of a mutually acceptable contract. As an example, previously hotels were accustomed to reselling a room quickly should a group fail to meet a benchmark, however, that ability has dwindled. Hotels will look to overbook their rooms assuming there will be guests who do not arrive. Planners need to address their overbooking clauses to be sure that their group is not impacted. Other tactics hotels will be exploring will be adjusting cut-off dates and attrition clauses which at first glance may look lenient, but not be the case if the group decides to cancel or the situation evolves.

Bottom Line: 2021 meetings and hybrid events will bring a lot of new things to consider

Hotels, along with the rest of us have been hit financially due to the pandemic, travel bans and closures. Venues will be watching out for their bottom line as they address the need to increase occupancy and profitability. 

The M&IW Procurement team recommends working together to review contracted programs for the remainder of 2020 to address any concerns as well as begin the journey now to procure the site for in-person and hybrid events moving forward.  Right now, it is not too early to get started to see what options are available to give stakeholders the time to review the details that they need to make decisions about your 2021 and beyond face-to-face meetings.

To learn more about sourcing, event design, or to get a custom physical distancing room sets, email M&IW Director of Procurement, Denise Farrell at for a free consultation.