After two years of remote working, employers are wrestling with keeping workers engaged and productive. With teams physically separated, we’ve seen employee morale dipping at many organizations.

Consequently, many companies whose offices haven’t reopened yet are planning internal meetings to unite co-workers and realign teams on business goals. Such meetings are seen as a way to reenergize the workforce and build cohesion, collaboration, and camaraderie among colleagues. They are also a more conducive meeting format when employees’ rapt attention is needed.

Today, Lynne Amori, an account and operations manager with American Express Meetings & Events (M&E), gives us some pointers on planning an internal meeting.

Going the distance

According to our Global Meetings & Events Forecast, internal meetings will account for nearly half of all meetings in 2022. This year, we’re also expecting more people to show up in person and to travel longer distances.

“In Q3 and Q4 of 2021, a lot of internal meetings were regional and within driving distance. People were apprehensive about getting on a plane,” explained Lynne. “This also eliminated the need for room blocks since people could drive in for a day meeting and they’d still be able to drive home and be with their family that evening. But in 2022, the trend is shifting. People want to get back on those airplanes. They want to fly someplace nice.”

From conversations with clients, Lynne says there’s been a mix of sentiments about the size of internal gatherings.

“Some clients are less conservative and are willing to jump right back in. ‘We’re going to have all 500 of our employees from this particular department get together.’ And then there are other clients who are still very restrictive and they’re recommending smaller team meetings with a maximum of 25 attendees,” she explained.

With so much upheaval in the job market and greater attention on employee satisfaction, Lynne said, “There’s a lot of focus now on finding that attractive location that’s going to excite people.” California, Vienna, Berlin, Portugal, the Caribbean, Hawaii – these are just some of the spectacular destinations where clients are booking internal meetings.

Lynne noted that choosing a destination with warmer weather has become popular since it allows for events to be held outside, another trend on the rise due to COVID.

When selecting a location, she recommends first considering where attendees will be traveling from. An HR business partner or team manager may be able to provide a list of potential attendees broken down by geographic location. The meetings management team you’re working with then can help make destination recommendations that won’t break your budget or require attendees to have multiple layovers.

Giving yourself time

Lynne said one of the biggest issues the Meetings & Events team sees these days is a tight turnaround time. Omicron caused many clients to postpone their meetings, and now that it’s Q2, they realize they need to get moving. However, it takes time to find venues and vendors that will meet the targets and budget of your meeting. You also need to give attendees advance notice so they can make decisions whether they can travel or not.

Lynne suggests four to six weeks for organizing a small meeting with about 10 attendees. For a 25 to 50-person event, she recommends a six- to eight-week lead time. For larger, more complex events, it’s best to have at least six months.

Planning in the age of COVID-19

Even though some COVID-19 restrictions are starting to ease up, Lynne said it’s important to be open and receptive to the different sentiments your attendees may have toward interacting in this environment. Some people will feel completely comfortable giving handshakes and hugs, while others would rather keep their distance and wear three masks. So think through the attendees’ journey and how you can cater to these different personas.

To make attendees feel comfortable, Lynne advises to be upfront with your communications leading up to the event and convey to attendees how regulations are constantly being monitored and adjustments will be made as needed.

She also suggests establishing expectations about attendees’ behaviors, such as whether masks will be required or participants will be tested before entering the event. Having signage, such as social distancing markers, can also help communicate the protocols attendees are expected to follow.

Since things are constantly evolving and each destination’s restrictions are different, you will want to work closely with your meetings management partner and the venue to stay on top of any regulation changes that may impact the program. You can also check the Travel Vitals™ search tool for the latest destination-specific health and travel advisories. Lynne said constructing a thorough duty of care plan can prepare teams for all types of issues and has been a hot topic among clients.

Aligning with your company values

With sustainability and diversity, inclusion, and equity growing priorities for many companies, Lynne recommends incorporating these values into the event.

For instance, there are tools in which you can enter event details – such as how many attendees are traveling via plane, how many meals are being served, even finer points like the wattage of lights within a meeting space – to calculate the carbon footprint of a meeting.

She also suggests picking venue-sourcing services that correlate with the company’s values. Your meetings management partner may have a sourcing assessment that includes questions around sustainability and diversity standards that can aid this search.

The meetings management team may also lean on its experience and relationships in the industry to help identify vendors that can support your goals.

“As one of the world’s leading business partners for meetings and events with established preferred supplier relationships, our M&E team can help you identify the appropriate fit for your next event,” Lynne said. “We keep current on the latest initiatives and trends and what the meetings marketplace has to offer in support of them.”

Connect with us to learn more about how American Express Meetings & Events can help plan your next event.