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HopSkip Webinar: Live Event Round Table Webinar Recap

April 5, 2021
Reading time: 4 min
Live event success roundtable discussion
Event overview:

Approximately 113 GSAE members, speakers, and guests attended the 2020 Georgia Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting, August 26-28, at the Hyatt Regency Savannah in Savannah, Georgia. The theme of this year’s event was “Connect. Advance. Achieve.”

Roundtable panelists:

Roundtable Discussion Recap:

When and where was this meeting held?

Savannah, Georgia, August 26-28, 2020 with 113 attendees.


How many attendees was the event planned for?

Original event was planned for up to 240.


How did you find out that planners would be interested in holding a live event during COVID-19?

It was a combination of reaching out to planners for a “temperature check”, telling them what we are doing from a proactive safety approach, and then let’s talk about how you want your event to take place. For GSAE, Wendy Kavanaugh (Executive Director) said it is vital for us to hold this event and discuss the climate of our community at the meeting.


Did you receive any feedback from the attendees leading up to or following the event regarding if they felt safe?

GSAE sent out a survey to see how many attendees were interested in going and that was an impetus to go forward with the event from a safety standpoint. Since we have started holding meetings again, we have had no confirmed cases. We are very strict about masks being worn properly and at all times other than eating/drinking while on site.


Is the Hyatt is willing to share photos of the onsite experience. I'm having a hard time imagining plexiglass around each of the exhibit booths, for example.

Photos are available in a Facebook album from GSAE. It contains a mix of attendee, GSAE, and Hyatt staff photos. “Safety First, Well-being Always” video from Hyatt Regency Savannah is available on YouTube (


How were masks managed? Were they required?

The city of Savannah, Georgia and GSAE both had mask mandates unless while eating or drinking (hence the importance of the distancing-protocols).


What were the additional costs for these safety protocols? And, who absorbed them?

All parties experienced higher costs for the safety protocols. These were not absorbed by the attendees.


With the decreased number of people at the event at the hotel (600 down to 200) what is the financial impact for the Hotel/GSAE? Higher cost per person for the event planner? Decreased profits for venue?

Both are true in this instance. From the hotel view, we knew that it was better to have this program on a smaller scale than not at all, so even though it was decreased in profit, the overall success of it being a safe and clean event outweighed the financial impact. GSAE’s Board of Directors approved a potential deficit based on their decision-making to move the event and document and share everything for the association community’s benefit.


With all the talk about “hybrid” events, did you offer any type of digital experience or was it only in person attendees?

No. However, GSAE has produced or co-sponsored over 60 digital educational events since March 2020, often addressing the same topics presented at the Annual Meeting.


I'm curious what the panel thinks about kiosk check-ins rather than registration desk check ins. I think it takes the warmth factor away that Wendy's mentioning, but may keep folks safer.

I do think utilizing a kiosk takes away from a face to face guide when it comes to an attendee registering for a conference whether you’ve attended before or are a first timer but it could be done. (Hotel and GSAE opinion.)


How did you handle bus transportation? Did you cut the number of attendees in half?

The trolley capacity was at about half. Attendees were very respectful of other attendee’s space and were really cognizant of spreading out or waiting for the next trolley.


What did you use for these communications to attendees?

Communication vehicles included flyer, website, emails, videos.


Did you do temperature checks for attendees? If so, how?

GSAE had thermometers and an oximeter on site. All hotel staff had temp checks upon reporting to work per Hyatt requirements.


Where can I find the toolkit that has the room diagrams mentioned, please?

A copy of the toolkit is available at GSAE’s website,, under the COVID-10 resources 


What is the largest event of the 51 events the Hyatt Regency and Visit Savannah have had? How many attendees were in attendance?

Since Covid-19, we have done several events up to 200 attendees. 


Were the swag bags made of sustainable fabric? Did you consider a "virtual" swag bag? Were there any sustainable best practices implemented?

Yes, the bags were made of recycled material. Our portions were tightly controlled to prevent waste onsite. We did not consider a virtual swag bag only. The event app did offer numerous ways for exhibitors and sponsors to promote their services and connect with attendees.

How important is the partnership with the CVB when dealing with COVID-19?

It is pretty vital. We have a constant open communication with Visit Savannah. Normally they’re dealing with city-wide's and that partnership is crucial because they book further out and in larger numbers. Right now, they’re imperative to letting groups and travelers know that Savannah is open for business. For GSAE we all had to be in sync to have that comfort level for all parties, especially attendees.


What was the menu for the picnic?

We had shrimp and grits, mini sandwiches with soup cups, a little barbeque, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free options. It was a buffet of sorts, packaged up for people to add to their own "picnic basket."


What is the largest event of the 51 events the Hyatt Regency and Visit Savannah have had? How many attendees were in attendance?

Since Covid-19, we have done several events up to 200 attendees. 


As a result of COVID-19, did you see workflow change for planner’s RFP sourcing in any way? More approval gates, contract negotiation, hotel communication to planner and other partners?

It has changed more from a safety and capacity standpoint but we have had these practices in place for a while. Environmental sustainability last year was very important, but now it has switched to safety. People are wanting to know what are you doing from a cleanliness and physical distancing capacity? We are constantly monitoring the local guideline since we have a great relationship with the Mayor and the Governor. The property has held events for both of them in the last 6 months. The state sends an update every six weeks which includes 21 criteria we have to meet.


Is there anything you wish you did differently since holding your first live event during COVID-19?

People are human and are going to do what they want to do. So at one of our first events, some people would try to move chairs to other tables and therefore not physically distance and follow CDC guidelines. This is a message we have to continue to communicate to the planners, who then have to communicate to their attendees the proper protocols and their importance. We have to break the old habits and educate on the new normal while strictly but politely enforcing the protocols.

This post is a webinar recap post summarizing the questions discussed and asked during the recent HopSkip webinar "Live Event Success Round Table Discussion" .  You can download the recorded webinar here.

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