How to Host Safer In-Person Meetings in 2021 and Beyond

16 ways to keep attendees safe and prevent the spread of Covid-19 at events.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people are now taking health and safety more seriously — especially when it comes to public gatherings and business events. Northstar Meetings Group's latest PULSE Survey shows 82 percent of planners expect to hold a live event in 2021, and more than 60 percent of all respondents said they plan to require face masks.

Even as states ease restrictions, many attendees still want to know that events have the highest safety measures in place. Over the past year, several trends have emerged in the meetings industry that are designed to keep guests safe. Below are 16 ways to ensure attendee safety as live events make a comeback. 

Health and Safety

One of the first things event attendees will want to know — before stepping into your event venue — is what health and safety guidelines you have implemented. Make sure to include this information on your website, on the event app and in any marketing materials. Keep these ideas in mind: 

1. Give attendees swag at the registration table that they will want to use throughout the day. A bag with branded masks, disposable masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes or spray, and a touchless door opener/button pusher will provide a positive experience at the start of your event.

2. Require health screening for attendees at the door, including taking their temperature, asking about symptoms and requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test result prior to entry.

3. Provide multiple areas for attendees to keep their hands clean, such as hand sanitizer dispenser stands or creating stations with bottles of hand sanitizer throughout the venue.

4. Build time into the event schedule for cleaning and sanitizing rooms between meetings or sessions.


Changing the structure of your event can help to reduce the number of people in one place at the same time. Here are some industry trends you can consider: 

5. Stagger entry and registration times to create a minimum capacity.

6. Limit session sizes by asking attendees to pre-register for sessions and create a cap for the number of people allowed into each room.

7. Provide overflow areas. If rooms have reached capacity, you can consider livestreaming your speakers online to allow attendees to watch from anywhere in the venue or create dedicated areas with limited seating where people can watch the livestream on a large screen.

8. Create a networking or "meet the experts" sessions with a booth-style set up. Use staggered times, so that everyone has access to the same experts and information throughout the day at a reduced capacity. 

Food and Beverage 

Self-service buffets are gone for the foreseeable future, but there are other ways to provide attendees with a great dining experience without sacrificing safety:

9. Have staff serve plated meals and passed appetizers in a socially distanced dining setup.

10. Try individually packaged food, including boxed lunches, salads served in closed containers, a bento box of hors d’oeuvres and individual desserts to go. 

11. To avoid long lines at the bar, create a batched cocktail menu or serve canned wines and bottled beers. 

12. If you have outdoor space, hire food trucks as a dining option to allow guests to stand in socially distanced lines and eat in a fresh-air environment. 


The key to setting up your venue is to allow enough space for your attendees to get a great experience while maintaining social distancing. Here are some practical and creative tips:

13. Use decor. Large plants can provide a boundary between seating setups. Put distance between people by placing pillows that say "this seat is reserved for social distancing" on couches and chairs. Go big with floral arrangements on tables to provide more of a barrier between guests.

14. Divide your space into employee areas and guest areas. Place seating setups away from the common paths employees take between the dining room, serving stations and the kitchen.

15. Mix up your seating arrangements to provide socially distanced space for the maximum amount of people allowed at tables but also set up small tables for two or three to encourage smaller gatherings.

16. Use outdoor space when possible to give attendees more room to spread out. Consider trendy seating elements like spacious outdoor igloos, huts, or yurts for smaller groups to host guests. 

Jonathan Morse is the founder and CEO of Tripleseat, an online catering and event management software that helps restaurants, hotels and unique venues increase their event bookings and streamlines the planning process. He has been involved in the restaurant and hotel business for more than 30 years. Before starting Tripleseat, Morse was vice president of sales for a web startup that delivered business intelligence reporting to the restaurant industry.