A funny thing happened on the way to writing about how to deal with Covid-19 and your event, our industry just got shut down. Well not officially for events under 500 pax but the writing is certainly on the wall based on the cascade of cancellations and postponements we’re seeing.
So instead of talking about all the ways to manage the risk of having your event going ahead as planned, let’s just cut to the alternatives being postponement or taking it online. Cancellation is also an option for say a one off event but to offer advice on that without knowing the financial or other implications would be unwise.
For most, postponement will be the obvious choice. If you’re going down this route then its best to decide sooner rather than later because if you’re postponing there is a good chance yours will not be the only event looking to reschedule and venues already catering to future events will have limited capacity to accommodate yours. The other reason to make a prompt decision on this is to minimise sunk costs and the increased obligation to offer refunds to delegates and exhibitors who might not be able to make the new date.
Alternatively you could look at taking your event online. Today there are multiple Social Distancing platforms that can be used to take your event partially or completely online. If you want to look at livestreaming to a broader public audience there is Facebook Live, Youtube Live, Livestream and Periscope. If you’d like to add networking to your online event there is WhatsApp, Slack or Yammer. There are also event apps to take advantage of that allow remote attendees to feel more included in the event to the point of being involved in session collaboration or live polling. And finally for smaller gatherings or breakout groups you could tap into using virtual meetings. Keep in mind it doesn’t all have to go online. If you’re speakers are in an area they can safely gather but attendees can’t then you might put together a hosted studio broadcast for them to access. Or you could end up with a hybrid event made up of physical and online attendees with key presentations packaged up for later access. It’s not a simple fix but there are many options depending on your experience in this area, timing and budget.
To be clear online events are nothing new but I imagine after the coming months it’s a method that will be firmly entrenched as an option for event producers looking to take advantage of the many benefits it offers (beyond mitigating the effects of a pandemic) including;
- The ability to reduce the carbon footprint of events with a wide geographical market.
- Increasing your audience reach and inclusivity to those who for whatever reason are unable to attend in person
- Reduced costs per delegate
- Greater market penetration considering that the majority of event marketing today is via social media
- And of course if you can keep your event alive it will help protect your investment, maintain engagement with your internal and external customers and keep doing business.
Keep in mind this is not going to work for every event. If yours is built around the model of a Summit or Symposium where the flow of information is primarily in one direction, then online is worth considering. If however your event is built on the power of face to face conversations and collaboration then probably not.
While there is much uncertainty around how this is all going to play out I’m confident of two things. We will overcome this and business will continue. I think it is important to keep this front of mind when things get tough for many reasons, not the least being that in times like this, those of worth shine through and are remembered. So think about how you’ll appear when this has all passed.