Flexibility has without a doubt been one of the top requirements for event planners over the past year. The constantly changing restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have meant that many meetings and events had to postpone, reduce in size or switch to virtual or hybrid formats at the last minute. Having a hotel partner able to adapt quickly to accommodate these changes has been essential. Flexibility has without a doubt been one of the top requirements for event planners over the past year. The constantly changing restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have meant that many meetings and events had to postpone, reduce in size or switch to virtual or hybrid formats at the last minute. Having a hotel partner able to adapt quickly to accommodate these changes has been essential.
Confronting the Covid challenge
When SFN, an organisation under the Department of Justice in Norway that offers training courses for 300 conciliation councils across the country, had to make changes to its 2020 annual meeting not once but twice, the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Bergen, Norway, stepped up to the challenge with an innovative hybrid solution.
The annual meeting was originally scheduled to be held at the hotel in September across two days. Invites were sent out in May and around 250 people were expected to attend in person. However, this had to be moved back to December due to Covid restrictions. Around 150 people registered to attend the new dates, but just two weeks before, the Norwegian government introduced a lockdown in Bergen, preventing anyone from travelling into or out of the area.
Lise Wergeland Strømmen, Chairman of the SFN board, says the event had to take place in 2020 and couldn’t be moved to 2021 because the new board had to be elected before the end of the year. This left just 14 days to create, implement and deliver an alternative solution.
Making the switch to hybrid
As locally based participants were still allowed to attend in person, SFN required a hybrid format as opposed to fully virtual. “Radisson Blu was able to offer all facilities and was proactive in helping us to conduct the meeting digitally with a complete package that took care of our needs,” says Lise Wergeland Strømmen.
One of the most important technical elements was a digital voting system that would enable both in-person and virtual audience members to cast their votes anonymously. The hotel introduced SFN to preferred AV partner Konsertsystemer, which provided all the required technical equipment. A hybrid Zoom meeting allowed all the delegates unable to travel to Bergen to log into the meeting virtually, while those at the hotel were linked to the Zoom meeting from the conference room. Attendees based outside of Bergen were notified by email that they would be able to take part digitally.
All the delegates were given their own unique login to access an online voting system, ensuring the voting process was both anonymous and legal. Around 20 delegates attended the meeting in person, with around 250 taking part overall.
Positive outcome for all
The meeting was held in Kongesalen, the largest hotel conference room in the centre of Bergen, which provided plenty of space for the AV set-up, and for the meeting to be conducted in a manner that complied with Covid-19 distancing restrictions. A pre-meeting the day before enabled the SFN team to run through the new format for the event and test that all the equipment worked. Everyone invited to join the meeting digitally was asked to take part in a test to ensure they would be able to access the meeting on the day.
The meeting ran smoothly and was a huge success, delivering on its key objectives. “We were very satisfied with the team at Radisson,” says Lise Wergeland Strømmen. She adds that one of the main advantages of the hybrid format was that it was much quicker – the meeting was conducted in two hours instead of two days. SFN is already planning to host several other digital meetings with Radisson Hotel Group in 2021 while restrictions remain in place but is looking forward to being able to get back to meeting physically again as nothing beats the face-to-face experience.