Pivoting in a time of crisis

Yale Conferences & Events Newsletter | May 2020 

A message from YC&E’s Executive Director, Suzanne Shaw

Hi friends,
We at Yale Conferences & Events hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe. Over the last couple of months, we have all been closely watching the immense impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the world. Our personal and professional lives have been upended and we’ve had to adjust to a “new normal”. 
The pandemic has challenged meeting and event organizers to find innovative new ways to bring people together safely during this period of quarantine and social distancing. Many organizers are pivoting to virtual events instead of cancelling or postponing them. And while the value of in-person meetings will never go away, there are silver linings with pivoting to virtual and hybrid meetings as there can be a broader reach and it can be more affordable for some. New event design options, tools, previously untapped services and creative solutions can now be added to leverage our traditional way of hosting and managing events and programs for the future.
YC&E staff have been busy mastering the art of planning and executing virtual events so that we can continue to provide our clients with stellar service. Recently we helped a client transform an in-person summer course to a virtual event by supporting their marketing and registration needs. We are excited to continue learning everything there is to know about virtual events and using this knowledge to help guide our clients through these challenging times.
In addition to our own personal and professional worlds, the broader hospitality industry as well as our colleagues at other institutions have experienced a major shift in business. What we all love to do is bring people together for a purpose through events. And we will continue to do so with virtual planning and hybrid meetings until we can come back to the traditional way of meeting with new guidelines.  
Although this is not the message I imagined I would be writing this May (a month before what was to be our busiest summer on record), I take comfort in seeing all the incredible stories of people working together for the greater good during this crisis. The way the Yale community has come together to take care of one another has been truly inspirational. 
We remain confident in our community’s ability to persevere in the face of this public health crisis. Please continue to take personal precautions and be kind to one another. Looking forward to seeing all of you, face to face, when the time comes.
Stay healthy and safe,

Weathering the Storm Together

Despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic, there are also countless inspiring stories of how people across the globe have come together to look after one another. From conducting leading-edge research to find a cure, to offering dorm room lodging to first responders, Yale has been working on several united fronts to combat COVID-19
Yale Conferences & Events is honored to be working closely with various Yale departments and community partners to navigate the unprecedented challenges we are facing together. Recently, we assisted the University with the first responders housing project by pivoting from our “normal” summer program housing operations to emergency housing during a pandemic. YC&E’s Assistant Director of Operations, Nathan Lubich, talks about this important University project below.

Pivoting from summer program housing to emergency responder housing during the COVID-19 pandemic

We sat down (via Zoom, of course) with YC&E’s Assistant Director of Operations, Nathan Lubich, to talk about supporting Yale’s commitment to making 500 beds available on campus for members of the Yale and New Haven communities who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our team was honored to aid these heroes who are keeping our community safe.  
In about five days, YC&E staff modified our typical summer housing operation into an emergency responder housing services office. Nathan mentions how we were fortunate to have a successful summer housing office and workflows in place to use as a starting point. Yet, to ensure we complied with best practices for social-distancing and with the safety of our staff and our guests a priority, many of our normal processes needed to change.   
“Our staff is normally very visible on campus and we’re regularly interacting with our guests, doing rounds through the buildings, and have a very physical presence – that doesn’t exist in this scenario,” Nathan explains. 
For us, it was imperative that these guests felt welcome and taken care of. To do this, we needed help from our valued campus partners that we work with throughout the year. This included facilities arranging towels on the beds in the shape of a “Y”, as well as Yale Hospitality curating nutritious grocery deliveries for guests who could not leave their rooms. 
Regarding the safety of our office staff and guests, Nathan pointed out the invaluable guidance we received from Yale Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) and the amazing work that Yale Facilities did to get the rooms cleaned and readied to house emergency responders. One of our biggest challenges was the changes we would have to make to our check-in and check-out procedures. EHS shared best practices for social distancing, while Yale Facilities helped to carry out modifications. “That includes everything from guidance on how far back check-in desks should be, creating a contactless check-in and check-out process, and working closely with Facilities and Access Control to allow our staff to open the front door automatically via remote control so guests do not need to touch anything,” he explains. 
Our next challenge was in providing enough communication to our guests while minimizing the need for physical handouts or in-person contact. Yale’s housing setup can be confusing to those who are on-campus for the first time. Since we wouldn’t have the option to escort a guest to their room if they had a hard time finding it, we arranged to have explicit directions and links to campus and building maps emailed to each guest when they checked in. To provide them with all of the information they might need to feel at home, our emails include information on local restaurants doing contactless delivery or pick-up, complimentary on-campus laundry service, connecting to the campus Wi-Fi, where to park during their stay, and how to access other campus resources. Our Yale Hospitality partners are making sure guests are happy by providing welcome bags full of snacks and goodies and offering food delivery to those who need to self-isolate.
When asked about useful takeaways for the future, Nathan highlighted the importance of these new communication methods. He hopes email communication can make check-in more seamless and getting information when guests need it much easier. He discussed making sure every guest, no matter the reason they are on campus, feels welcome, comfortable, and safe. 
He also noted that hiring the right people is crucial. “Staff are the core of what you are doing,” he says. “Value your employees and they will show up for you when you need it.” Local summer staff, who weren’t supposed to start work until June, quickly answered the call to work in our Yale Housing and Services Office. Across all units at YC&E and throughout campus, staff stepped up to find answers and were ready to assist during off hours. It has been amazing to witness people answer the call for help during this public health crisis. We are so grateful to be part of a community that is going above and beyond to combat COVID-19. 
Thank you to all our campus partners, colleagues, and most importantly, thank you to our front-line workers. We are so grateful for all you are doing to keep us safe. We will be here when you need us!

Hosting Zoom Meetings and Webinars in 2020: Helpful Tips

In today’s virtual world, it can be tough to figure out how to make the best of your team meetings through a computer screen. We encourage you to think about taking the best practices from your in-person meetings and bringing them into a virtual setting. Here are some helpful tips for Zoom Meetings:
  • Prior to meetings, you should check calendars to make sure those who are needed can attend.  
  • Whoever is hosting the meeting should also send out an agenda in advance to give everyone a chance to review what will be discussed and if they are responsible for bringing anything to the meeting.  
  • If you are an attendee of the meeting, you should review the agenda and be prepared for anything you may be asked to contribute. 
  • As you might do if you were in the office, if you have a chance to get to the meeting 5-10 minutes before it’s scheduled, use that opportunity to catch up with your colleagues and stay connected.  
  • During the meeting, make sure to mute yourself if you’re not talking, try your best to be in a quiet area free from unnecessary distractions, keep off your phone and from working on other tasks, and don’t interrupt others while they are speaking.  
  • To close each meeting, the host should point out any key takeaways, action items or deliverables and who’s responsible, and make note of when the next meeting will take place.  Keep it simple! When a meeting gets too complex, you risk losing everyone’s attention.
Looking for a way to host your events virtually? Yale supports Zoom Webinar, a view-only platform designed to support learning events. Unlike Zoom Meeting, attendees cannot see each other, and the host cannot see the attendees. A webinar has registration, reporting features, and in-meeting chat rooms. There is no minimum size for a webinar, but many more people can attend than with a traditional Zoom Meeting, depending on the licensing level purchased. The organizer can designate up to 25 video presenters and the attendees can join in live polling, Q&A, etc. 
Presenting can be a tough task for some people and, even for some of the best presenters, presenting virtually is even harder.  Just like at an in-person conference, practice makes perfect. Here are some helpful tips:
  • Take a moment to record yourself practicing and watch the recording back or get a group of colleagues or friends that you trust to virtually present to for feedback.  
  • Note that standing up gives you confidence and makes you look more energized to your audience. 
  • Think about the camera being right at your eye level so that those watching feel connected to your presentation. In order to do so, keep your notes at eye level or just under or above the camera when presenting.  
  • Lighting is key! There are many ways to enhance your lighting situation with ring lights, etc. Making sure you have appropriate lighting in your room of choice is helpful to the viewer.  
  • Last but not least, be yourself!

Working from Home: Staying Productive, Motivated, and Healthy

With many of us working from home these days, creating a place in our homes to get our work done and stay motivated has become a priority. While a home office is ideal, not everyone has a spare room to use and so more creative solutions are necessary! Once a workspace is set up, techniques to help de-stress, re-energize, and focus are essential as we live life at a safe social distance. Discover how our YC&E colleagues have set up their workspaces at home and what they’re doing to stay productive, healthy, and sane!

Megan Palluzzi, Program Manager

How are you staying organized?
Using Trello and my planner, plus a Yale notebook for notes and important deadlines.
How are you staying focused and energized?
By going on a walk or a run every day to keep my mind focused and enjoy some fresh air. I have also started using my nutribullet and have been making a lot more smoothies!
Current playlists you’re listening to during work hours:
Jess Glynne, Billy Joel, Celine Dion, and Maroon 5. I also started playlists with friends from college and hometown to share music that I typically play throughout my day!
Apps that are helping you stay organized, focused, connected to others:
Zoom and Houseparty 

Maddison Capobianco, Program Manager

How are you staying organized?
Having just moved in a new house, I don’t have a lot set up yet. However, I like to make sure my work space is tidy and relaxing with a candle and anything else I will need throughout the day (like water and chapstick!). 
How are you staying focused and energized?
I have been working out every morning with POPSUGAR Fitness on YouTube. They have many workouts for all different levels and all preferences. They have dancing and kickboxing but also High Intensity Interval Training and even Yoga! 

Kathryn Vieillard, Deputy Director, Strategy, Sales & Program Development; Director, Greenberg Conference Center

I have set up camp in my daughter’s home office. One thing that I have taken away from this time of working at home is striving for more of a work-life balance. I have owned my own businesses, in the past, and it has taught me that when you work where you live, you must draw good boundaries. I have taken this time to slowdown, read more, ask more questions and take breaks from work, to get out and walk, or to sit down to a meal. So hopefully, YC&E will come out of this more thoughtful, more prepared and knowing that this time was tough, but that we are tougher.

Shannon LeGault, Senior Program Director

What have you done to spruce up your home workspace?
I added a tablecloth (actually a bed sheet), a picture of the ocean as my “view”, and I brought home my two monitors from the office. 
How are you staying organized?
I use folders and make sure I clean up each night.   
How are you staying focused and energized?
I have started working out in the morning before work.
Current playlists you’re listening to during work hours:
None. There’s too much going on with 2 kids being homeschooled behind me.
Apps that are helping you stay organized, focused, connected to others:
Zoom and Skype for business

Agnes Leary, Senior Administrative Assistant, Greenberg Conference Center

I start every morning by reading and answering emails. I make sure to set time aside to organize my meeting notes to stay focused and organized.
Our weekly staff meeting, program meetings, and one-on-one meetings really help to keep me focused and up-to-date on what is going on in the department and at the Greenberg Center.
I am looking forward to getting back to a more “normal” life.

Adam Cairns, Assistant Administrator, Residential Technology

What have you done to spruce up your home workspace?
The two ultrawide screens gives me plenty of space to setup all of my workflow and switch between applications seamlessly.
How are you staying organized?
Trello is a new thing for me and has been incredibly useful to keep organized. I also started using my iPad with an Apple Pencil as my note taking method. I do it in an application called Noteshelf. It reduces paper needs and keeps all of my notes organized. I can also search my handwritten notes to find things easily.
How are you staying focused and energized?
I like to take short sporadic breaks to check on the kids and get out some energy, eat well, and stretch out a bit.
Current playlists you’re listening to during work hours:
I usually have some version of YouTube, Pandora, or live-streamed podcasts going on in the background.

We Want to Hear from You!

Now more than ever, it’s so important to stay connected to those in your networks. We’d love to hear how you are doing and what you thought about our first newsletter of 2020. Send us a message.
For the most up-to-date information on how Yale Conferences & Events is navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, follow our social media accounts. We are constantly sharing important University updates and practical information on planning and hosting virtual meetings and events.
Look for our next newsletter in your inbox in mid-June. Until then, stay healthy and safe!