How to Host Small Meetings and Events During COVID-19

How to Host Small Meetings and Events During COVID-19

By Beth Buehler

You can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as groups and the meetings and events industry as a whole return to action with the new realities of coronavirus (COVID-19) in mind. Destination Colorado tapped the expertise of two Colorado hotel professionals to get their take on how to host small meetings and events during COVID-19.

What types of groups are looking for space in 2020? The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Avon, Vail Valley is experiencing “last-minute demand from small groups and weddings that are looking for new locations due to venues being closed,” says General Manager Kristen Pryor.

Kristen Pryor, general manager of The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Avon, Vail Valley.

Meg Palumbo, national sales manager for The Steamboat Grand in Steamboat Springs, concurs and adds, “I am proud to be in this industry. I have seen tremendous compassion for each of our unique situations from meeting planners and fellow suppliers.”

Meg Palumbo, National Sales Manager, The Steamboat Grand, Steamboat Springs.

Provide two or three tips regarding how to host smalls meeting and events during COVID-19. 

MP: Communicate with your attendees about what steps are in place to host a healthy event and what local county public health orders are in place, and then allow them to give feedback and voice concerns. Also, if your attendees plan to dine in one of our amazing local restaurants, make a reservation. With smaller capacities right now in restaurants, it is wise to plan ahead.

KP: Be flexible with your meeting sets and food and beverage requirements, as properties are constantly adjusting to adhere to the changing health guidelines and mandates. Strong communication between attendees and hotel partners is always key to hosting a successful event, but is even more important in this current climate.

What types and sizes of groups has your property or destination hosted since reopening? 

Meg Palumbo: Steamboat Ski Resort and The Steamboat Grand have hosted small wedding ceremonies and a corporate group of 10 people.

The Steamboat Grand and many Colorado hotels provide plenty of space and beautiful surroundings. Courtesy The Steamboat Grand.

Kristen Pryor: The Westin Riverfront has held several small group meetings ranging from 8 to 20 people. Also, on June 16, we hosted a Bluegrass & BBQ party with live music outdoors on the resort’s 4,000-square-foot Event Lawn overlooking the Eagle River. We had a maximum capacity of 50 people, and it was a ticketed event that sold out more than one week in advance, so the demand is definitely there. Attendees told us that they were thrilled to have a fun and safe event to attend, while also enjoying delicious food and great local music. The resort plans to continue to host these kinds of outdoor events this summer and fall, with a Picnic and Prosecco event in the works for early August.

The Westin Riverfront’s Event Lawn and the terrace above provide great options for outdoor meals, receptions, weddings and exercise classes. Courtesy The Westin Riverfront.

Were these groups excited about being at a meeting or event again?

MP: Our weddings were intimate and beautiful. Our corporate group was productive and motivated to get down to business.

KP: We recently hosted a two-day retreat for a financial company, and they were very excited to be able to get together again. They held meetings and played golf each day.

Colorado properties offer welcoming and beautiful spaces starting with the lobby. Courtesy The Steamboat Grand.

What venues, meeting and event space, lodging and activities are groups utilizing?

KP: All of our meeting rooms have natural light with patio access, which allows us to prop open doors for air circulation. Our expansive outdoor terraces and plazas have been utilized for meal functions. Outdoor activities including golf, fly-fishing, whitewater rafting and horseback riding continue to be popular with group attendees. Also new for 2020, our Athletic Club is now offering an extensive schedule of outdoor exercise classes, which can be tailored to groups and take place on the resort’s 4,000-square-foot Event Lawn.

The Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa, Avon, Vail Valley overlooks the Eagle River. Courtesy The Westin Riverfront.

What new procedures have been put in place to help attendees and planners feel confident in gathering?

MP: We supply the meeting planners with pre-arrival information that outlines Routt County’s “5 Commitments of Containment,” our commitment to hosting a healthy event, and the meeting planners’ and attendees’ personal responsibilities for a healthy event.

KP: In response to COVID-19, The Westin Riverfront is closely following the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, local government and public health department including an increased frequency of cleaning, the addition of hand sanitization stations and social distancing markers. All staff members are required to wear masks at all times and per the Town of Avon, all guests are required to wear masks while indoors.

Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 15 years and helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine in 2013. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado