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Research / Health & Safety Protocols Lead to COVID-Free Event
by Incentive Research Foundation
From the very beginning of the planning process for the 2021 IRF Education Invitational, health & safety protocols were a driving factor in every decision for this 500-person live event scheduled for June 2-5, 2021. As vaccinations became more accessible and CDC guidelines became less restrictive, the IRF continuously revised the program design and health & safety protocols for the Invitational.
With the health & safety of attendees top of mind, the IRF expanded its capabilities by forming partnerships with businesses that specialize in critical health & safety services. Given that the host hotel was a key partner, an enhanced site inspection was operated to observe hotel protocols and ensure alignment between IRF-desired protocols and the hotel’s readiness to deliver on those requirements. Fortunately, the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort was prepared to go above and beyond their own protocols to match those requested by the IRF. Additional health & safety partners included:
The multiple considerations around program design and distancing included:
Quickly shifting regulations at the federal, state/local and hotel level led to a decision to shift our mask policy just prior to the event. The new policy aligned with the health & safety protocols of the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, which were consistent with CDC and American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) Safe Stay Guidelines.
This new policy meant fully vaccinated attendees were not required to wear a mask. Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated attendees were asked to wear masks at indoor events. While not the primary driver, the mask policy decision was also informed by the percentage of our attendees that were fully vaccinated as reported by Vital Circle. 89.3% of Invitational attendees were fully vaccinated (including the two-week post-injection wait period) prior to the start of the event. All others had presented a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of the event start.
Communication to all attendees regarding the mask protocol shift was immediate. Signage, speaking notes and reminders about masking, presentation templates with reminders and more were all updated prior to the event kick-off. In comments during General Session, attendees were reminded of the policies and reminded that vaccinated attendees were welcome to wear masks if they desired. The goal was to ensure safety and comfort, making it a “judgement free” zone.
All other health & safety protocols remained in place. Therefore, daily health screenings, proximity contact tracing, and temperature checks became even more important. Attendees were overwhelmingly grateful for the mask policy shift and complied with the remaining protocols. Representative feedback included:
To ensure we were aware of any post-event health concerns, Vital Circle sent health surveys to all attendees at 5, 10, and 21-days following the event. No attendees reported any red-flag symptoms, illness, or positive COVID-19 test. At the 25-day mark, our health & safety partner, Vital Circle, deleted the names associated with the event and archived other data in alignment with their privacy policies.
“Since the IRF Education Invitational was one of the first industry events of 2021, we were excited to set the example for the industry. The IRF is so proud of how our partners, staff and attendees each did their part to help us have a safe event… and get back to business. The 2021 Invitational was an important step toward the widespread return to meetings, events, and conferences,” said Kari Vrba, IRF Chair.
Thank you to our Host Partner
In this edition of Academic Research in Action, we summarize an interview conducted with the Chief People Officer of a mid-size and fast-growing AI-powered recruitment solutions.
Our panel will examine the changing priorities of today’s workforce and which types of incentives and rewards motivate early, mid, and late career employees