Close to 500 in-person event attendees. 45 vendors showcased. 290 hotel rooms booked. Attendees and staff feeling their health was the first priority throughout the meeting. This is a story worth telling.
There is an undeniable value of in-person meetings, especially for an association of orthopedic hip and knee surgeons whose livelihood depends on hands-on interaction. This November, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons (AAHKS) partnered with Hilton Anatole for the fifth consecutive year to host its 30th AAHKS Annual Meeting. The hybrid meeting drew in-person attendees from 37 states as well as two countries in South America, all of which had their own COVID-19 protocols in place. Additionally, nearly 1,000 attendees tuned in virtually from the comfort of their home or office, allowing attendees to participate even if circumstances prevented them from traveling.
After the association carefully weighed its options before deciding to move forward with the hybrid event, there were a number of factors that needed to be considered. First and foremost was the in-person attendees’ health and safety. They were looking for partners they could trust as well as a venue prepared to host groups during a pandemic.
“We’ve been at this facility [Hilton Anatole] for several years, and we’re very familiar with the layout of the hotel as well as the staff’s ability to deliver, so we had a lot of historic confidence and trust in Hilton. As we thought about hosting in 2020, their increased cleaning protocols and contract flexibility helped us make the decision that we could – in fact – conduct a hybrid meeting this year and do it safely,” said Michael J. Zarski, JD, executive director, American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons.
Beyond Hilton’s 101-year reputation of delivering high-quality events, this summer the company introduced Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, a global, industry-leading cleanliness and customer service program specific to meetings and events. The program, built from extensive customer feedback, focuses on three tenets: Elevated cleanliness protocols, book-to-billing flexibility, and safe and responsible event solutions.
In addition to Hilton’s elevated cleaning standards, AAHKS brought its own innovative solutions to the table to ensure the safety and health of their attendees, including consulting an infectious disease specialist who helped the association create protocols ranging from the registration process to serving meals to attendees. The AAHKS app, which has been used in years past, was updated to include a health attestation feature that attendees filled out each morning. Prior to entering any of the sessions, attendees had to attest that they were symptom-free and have their temperatures checked. In addition, AAHKS, through the exhibit contractor, employed additional sanitizing protocols during the overnight hours in the exhibit hall, a high traffic area. Of course, all local guidelines requiring masks at all times and social distancing were followed as well.
“As attendees left the conference, the best feedback we received was that they felt safe. Many of the protocols both our team as well as the Hilton Anatole put in place mirrored the practices that these surgeons were seeing at their hospitals, where there are COVID-19 patients day-in and day-out,” Zarski added.
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