We were a 100% in-person organization before the pandemic. Off The Record would organize founders meetings that would take place in cramped WeWork boardrooms. We hosted investor dinners in trendy, hole in the wall restaurants. I refused to use Twitter (I still do). The only thing we did online was send out calendar invites, and even that I forgot to do more than I care to admit.
Like everyone else, Off The Record transitioned to doing everything virtually. We started hosting events on Zoom, albeit very selectively. And even launched new founder pods that met online. While we were able to survive like this, it didn’t have the same impact as meeting in-person.
We’re organizing in-person meetings again.
Off The Record was founded by venture capital funds to support startup founders. We curate founders into peer groups which meet once per month to work through personal and professional challenges. When we launch a new founder group, it takes a lot of time and energy to build the trust and relationship dynamics between the members to make sure they benefit from the experience. This is something we need to do in-person.
We’ve put together this guide to share how we’re transitioning back to real world meetings and prioritizing the safety of our team and participants. We’ve received input from physicians, epidemiologists, public safety officers, and logistics experts who helped to put this plan together. While this is custom to the specific types of meetings we host, I encourage anyone to use it as a template for safely hosting meetings.
Our guide to in-person meetings
1. Venue Selection
No conference rooms. We’re using oversized venues that can normally fit 50–100 people for our meetings with a dozen participants. Large event spaces aren’t being used now and are easy to find. Non-traditional spaces work even better. We’re hosting events in building lobbies, outdoor courtyards, and industrial garages. Make sure the venues are quiet so attendees can easily communicate even while being spread up to 15 feet apart.
2. Attendee Buy-In
As a host, it doesn’t matter what precautions you take if everyone isn’t responsible — both before and during the meeting.
- Masks are mandatory
- Contact everyone before the event to ask if they feel sick
- Temperature check everyone upon arrival
- Avoid using public transportation to the meeting
- Avoid travel 2 weeks before the meeting
3. Managing Hot Spots
The most important points to pay attention to are the areas and situations where a virus is most likely to spread.
- Bathroom — only one person in the bathroom at a time. Use paper towels instead of air dryers. Place paper towels in multiple locations, especially near the door. Place a garbage can near the door to dispose of towels after using them to open the door.
- Food — Single serve and individually packed meals and drinks. No food that can be eaten with your hands (e.g. salads instead of sandwiches or pizza).
- Supplies — Provide everything attendees may need during the event, including: pens, paper, food, and hand sanitizer. Set up all of these at each individual attendees table to avoid them congregating at a communal supply table.
- Avoiding Lines — Don’t have people line up or enter and exit the room at the same time.
Have you learned any best practices that we should include?
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