Reimagining Event Spaces and Safe Gatherings: Takeaways from Smart Meetings and MPI Hybrid Experiences

Food & Beverage Strategy Technology

The return to large-scale events will be coursed with acts of responsibility and transparency by event professionals, vendors, and attendees. We all want to get back to what we do best – creating experiences, making moments, and telling stories.

Virtual and hybrid events will continue to be important players in the industry, but there is still a place for in-person meetings. Smart Meetings partnered with The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs in October to host a group of 80-85 event professionals for a trailblazing pandemic-friendly gathering experience.

A few weeks later, MPI hosted its signature 4-day education event, the World Education Congress (WEC). Nearly 1,100 virtual and 650 in-person industry professionals attended the WEC at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.

Both events successfully became blueprints for the meeting industry, rediscovering best practices for safe hybrid gatherings. LEO Events has prepared four major takeaways to adopt for your next live or hybrid experience:

Consider a typical registration set-up, with plexiglass between staff and attendees for protection. MPI provided registration materials by mail before the event to avoid long lines on day one.

Offer luxurious seating to make the atmosphere cozier. Smart Meetings offered comfortable, socially distanced chairs, equipped with bottled water, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes.

Use large rooms that allow for airflow and utilize outdoor space for team building and networking sessions. Consider offering computers with disposable headphones for networking with virtual attendees.

Don’t sacrifice passed food and beverages at your event. Instead, have gloved staff pass covered beverages and individually wrapped appetizers. For larger meals, choose to serve plated dinners rather than preparing a buffet.

When it comes to seating, there is still an opportunity to wow attendees with creative table settings. Use larger tables that typically seat 6-8 guests, but only use four chairs to maintain safe social distance protocols.

Seat attendees at the same table each day to aid in contact tracing efforts. Also, consider releasing small groups at a time to avoid any over-crowding.


Put strict safety measures in place for your event, including mask requirements, temperature checks, health screenings, and hand sanitizer stations.

“We all miss the power of meetings, and if we each do our part, we can safely come together to do the important work that all those Zoom calls just can’t accomplish.”

– Marin Bright, Smart Meetings CEO

Ask attendees to avoid hugs and handshakes. Instead, encourage them to greet with elbow bumps and waves.

Also consider fun, creative approaches to sanitizing the room and stage between speakers. Smart Meetings had help from a trained SaniCrew team to keep their event clean and safe. SaniCrew members are equipped with a bubbly disposition and a long sanitizing wand to clean the venue throughout the event, ensuring everyone is safe.

Be sure to have readily available transportation for attendees. With frequent transportation options, it is much easier to maintain social distance guidelines within the vehicle. And don’t forget to sanitize between rides.

A clean, safe environment doesn’t have to feel sterile. “It is such a relief to be moving forward again,” Bright said. “We just have to continue being conscientious so we can keep doing this.”


MPI was equipped with touch-free thermometers and an app for daily health screenings. Each attendee was required to complete their screening before he or she was permitted access to the event.

Use live streaming capabilities throughout sessions for virtual attendees. There are also countless creative ways to utilize QR codes at your event for a touchless experience.


The excitement of being in-person will be a huge win for any experience. Event planners are continuing to learn the best practices, and together, we will discover new realities for large-scale events.

To ensure you have the best information regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), resources are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At LEO Events, we are committed to innovative pandemic planning solutions. Being safe in this new climate takes meticulous preparation. To learn more safe gathering strategies for in-person, hybrid, and virtual meetings and events, don’t hesitate to contact us at