Injured Workers’ Advocates
2020 Annual Conference
November 2020

In November 2020, Injured Workers’ Advocates (IWA) held their 2020 Annual Conference in Asheville, North Carolina at the Omni Grove Park Inn. Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau interviewed IWA Executive Director, Bonnie Anzelmo, to discuss her experience and insight on holding an in-person meeting in Asheville.

Explore Asheville CVB: What information did you include in pre-event communications and what safety measures did you take to ensure attendees felt safe and informed?

Bonnie Anzelmo: I told the attendees that the Omni Grove Park Inn had assured me that they would be taking extra precautions to keep us safe, including having us positioned six feet apart during our conference and having hand sanitizer available for our use only. I also told the attendees that I would be providing everyone two masks and individual containers of hand sanitizer for them to use.  Additionally, we provided an option for our members to watch our conference online from their hotel rooms or anywhere else in the Omni Grove Park Inn if they did not want to be inside the ballroom.  

EACVB: What was your final attendance (in-person vs. virtual)? Did you experience a drop in attendance this year compared to others? 

BA: We had 73 in attendance, of those 28 were virtual. We typically have around 85 attendees. So, yes, we did experience a slight drop.

EACVB: What did the meeting agenda look like?

BA: We had classes in the ballroom from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. We didn’t have any off-site events. 

EACVB: Did you incorporate any socially distanced activities for attendees? 

BA: Instead of having our traditional receptions on Thursday and Friday nights, we provided drink vouchers for the Omni Grove Park Inn’s Great Hall bar for our attendees.

EACVB: What other revisions did you have to make to your meeting agenda in light of COVID-19? Or if there weren't any, would you say that the meeting agenda was pretty similar to what you normally would have scheduled for the conference, pre-COVID? 

BA: We had to revise the way that we do our breakfasts on Friday and Saturday mornings to provide for safe social distancing. On Friday, we generally sit in rounds of 10, and we have multiple people briefly speak to the group. Because we wanted to be sure that everyone was able to see the speakers and to ensure social distancing, we instead had the group sit in a classroom setting. On Saturday, we generally have small group discussions in rounds of 10 during breakfast, but because of COVID, we only sat 4 people per table. We also offered boxed breakfasts to be carried out by attendees who did not feel safe sitting in the ballroom. Finally, thanks to the help of the AV providers at the Omni Grove Park Inn, we had several virtual presenters for our convention this year, and we have not had to do that in the past.

EACVB: Do you feel that Asheville’s attributes contributed to the success of this meeting? If so, how? 

BA: I believe that, this year in particular, our members were excited to take advantage of the available outdoor activities that Asheville provides. 

EACVB: What activities were most popular amongst attendees? 

BA: Hiking the nearby trails.

EACVB: Do you feel that the Explore Asheville CVB contributed to the success of this meeting? If so, how? 

BA: Explore Asheville provided brochures for our members so that they would know what activities were available during our stay.

EACVB: What key piece(s) of advice can you share with your fellow planners after learning from this process? 

BA: Stay in contact with your conference services managers and let them know what you need. The Omni Grove Park Inn’s staff was so great and really made us feel safe and welcome!