How the COVID-19 virus is challenging the events industry
There are simply so many articles being published by the minute about the event industry across the world, in all forms, such as blogs or sites. We thought to put them together in this article to help you get a clearer picture of the current situation when managing events during these times.
We do not intend to provide a complete picture (it would be impossible considering how quickly the situation is changing). This article is merely to share with you some options you might have not considered and you may want to use if you work in the event industry.
There are different opinions about the economical effect of the virus and how severe it is. Even specialists and authorities have a different point of view. What you can do is to be transparent on what this current situation means to you and the events you are planning.
First of all, we can have a look at the World Health Organisation (WHO) on what is the COVID-19 and how it spreads.
What is coronavirus?
COVID -19 is a virus found in humans for the first time in history. It is contagious from person to person, primarily through droplets when a carrier speaks, coughs or sneezes. The infectious disease spreads in people around the infected person doing such things. Yet, the good news is the virus is too heavy to travel far in the air and it can travel roughly one metre and rapidly land on surfaces. That is why the infection happens mainly between close contacts.
It is still unclear how long the virus can live on surfaces. Therefore, it is recommended to regularly clean surfaces that might be closer to people infected with COVID-19, such as shared door handles or handrails.
The virus can be on many common surfaces that can be touched by hands. That is why it is very important to not touch eyes, mouth or nose with your hands as this might transmit the virus from the surface to you.
When you cough or sneeze, you should cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your elbow or use a one-use tissue. If using a tissue, throw it away immediately into the nearest closed bin.
To prevent the spread of the new Coronavirus COVID-19, the most efficient way is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or if not possible, an alcohol-based hand rub. This will kill the virus if it was on your hands.
How is coronavirus changing the event industry?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a 9-page document that offers detailed recommendations to event organisers planning large-scale events. It might be a good idea to have a look at it if you haven’t yet. As an event organiser, you will already be aware of the document’s considerations – to be in communication with the local and national health associations and, for example, to share precautionary actions to visitors, especially respiratory protocol and hand cleanness.
However, other suggestions, as mentioned in this post from PCMA, take into consideration additional advice for event planners on risk assessments, such as considering the gathering density; the kind of interaction among partakers, including the arrangement of meeting locations; whether visitors are registered or non-registered, hence easier to trace after the event finishes if needed for public health requirements; their occupation and potential exposure risk; the number of delegates attending from new Coronavirus affected areas; and the common age of visitors, as mature groups of people seem more affected by the virus.
9 Suggestions for Handling Coronavirus Influence on your Event:
Take a look at some points you might want to take into consideration:
1. Where is your event located and where will your audience be coming from?
This is a key point. Let’s take an example: you might spread the disease by organising an event in a safe space without making sure your audience has not been in affected countries.
Controlling passports and asking visitors where they came from it is now essential for your events. This is exactly what SaaStr Annual 2020 is doing. They have a very thorough entry process in place. They don’t just check passport but also use thermal scanning of delegates to certify they are in good health and can have access to the event.
In terms of your event public, consider delegates, but also exhibitors, sponsors, event hostesses, suppliers, hospitality staff, stakeholders, speakers, VIPs and anyone else involved in the making of the event. It can be very easy to focus on visitors and forget the consequences of how can other people spread the disease.
You can use your event management system to trace and communicate with a specific group of your audience. For example, if you need to communicate with a group of people coming from affected areas or if you just want to identify them.
- Expo Database: List of rescheduled or cancelled trade shows and exhibitions worldwide
- Corona Virus industry event tracker: Seminars that have been cancelled, postponed or transformed to virtual due to the coronavirus epidemic
- New York Times: Public gatherings Cancelled because of Coronavirus – a brief list
- No event ban necessary in the UK, says Gov. medical adviser
2. Who is attending your event?
We explained how important it is to understand the average age at your event (COVID-19 has a higher impact on seniors). However, there are some other impacting aspects to consider. Senior members or keynote speakers may hesitate or won’t be able to attend.
Also, various companies are now forbidding or cutting employee travel for an uncertain period.
- Meetingsnet: Keeping up with COVID-19
- Coronavirus fears are battering the $2.5 trillion trade show industry
3. What substitute event arrangements could you adopt?
Although not every live event, such as gala dinners will be possible to be rearranged, there are substitute set-ups such as live streaming (webcasting) events that you could look at.
Thanks to the technological progress in the past years, virtual meetings and webcasting events have been effectively brought across the world. Live streaming of events allows anyone from anywhere to take part in an event, from the comfort of their own home or office. All they need is a smartphone or laptop and a website link to the conference (virtual event).
You could stream your event and limit audience interaction or design it in a way where participants can fully engage and work together on workshops and case studies. With a bit of organisation, it’s all achievable.
- Events of the future: how to plan a virtual event
- The event planner’s guide to free live-streaming tools on social media
- 7 mistakes to avoid when using Facebook Live at events
Articles containing examples of event conversions to virtual, rescheduled and cancelled:
- IBTM postpones IBTM Asia Pacific 2020
- How major shows this spring are forging ahead amidst coronavirus outbreak
- Mobile World Congress Cancellation Over Coronavirus Is Foreboding Sign for Events
- In a Crisis, Can Your Meeting Go Digital?
4. Some resolutions will be taken out of your control
Even with your best intentions, you may discover that other parties influence your decision-making process. For example, airports shutting or airlines cancelling flights. Government authorities taking high impact solutions such as closing down all events or large scale events. Suppliers like hotel companies, conference venues and others could all make decisions that are beyond your control and therefore might mean your live event cannot take place.
Switzerland bans high-cap events amid coronavirus fears
5. Inform yourself from reliable sources
Read articles in full to understand the current situation, not just the headlines. Media have their agenda to stick to. Bad news sells. It’s important to make sure that provable information from independent groups is used for your whole decision-making process.
- PCMA: Industry experts weigh in on the Coronavirus
- Event Council: Statement on COVID-19 to members, partners and the events community
- MPI: Coronavirus resources for meeting professionals
6. Be transparent
Communicate effectively with attendees. You could share the prevention strategy you are adopting at your event to contain the spread of the disease or whether you are rearranging or cancelling the event. Keep everyone updated. Communication and transparency are fundamental, especially now.
- MMBC to Meetings Industry: There’s No Reason to Cancel Events in the U.S
- IMEX 2020 Cancelled – Organisers Confirm
- How to handle a big crisis at your event
7. How to manage your event on-site during Coronavirus
If you decide to go ahead with your event and assessed that it is safe to do so, you must take all the due precautions to keep everyone safe. How this should be planned is up to you as the event organiser and the relevant authorities. A ‘business as usual’ approach is highly not recommended. For example, take into account that banning handshakes and air kisses would likely not be enough to contain the spread of the infection.
- Additional Health & Safety Rules for 2020 SaaStr Annual
- Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coronavirus (COVID-19)
8. Am I responsible for hotel accommodation?
Considering how the virus is spreading, do you think it is your responsibility to manage hotel accommodation for delegates and stakeholders? Let’s say if on your website you offer some hotel recommendations, are you responsible for any issues at the accommodation(s)?
It is always a good idea to have positive relationships with hospitality structures. However, if they are not following the right procedures to avoid the spread of the virus, are you responsible for the guests you sent there? Can you ask these structures to be more thorough in their cleaning process or would that be too much?
Probably you might need to communicate with your delegates and make sure they understand it is not your responsibility if hotels do not follow sanitising guidelines. But, if you comment on that, it won’t transmit a good image to your delegates. It is vital to know what you are offering and accomplish the expectations.
It would be a good idea to check what your insurance provider says about this, based on your contract, and eventually ask for any changes.
COVID-19: Discussion of critical insurance and legal considerations for event professionals
- Coronavirus: What you need to know about cancelling an event and liability risks
- COVID-19: Is your event covered
- Will event cancellation insurance cover the coronavirus?
- Impact of the Coronavirus on Organizations’ Meetings and Events
- COVID Confusion; Las Vegas Show Scene Prepares
9. What are your obligations after the event?
If anyone felt sick at your event with the Coronavirus symptoms, you need to contact the appropriate authorities.
Based on the guidelines for mass congregations published by the World Health Organisation “Event organisers must communicate with public health authorities and share information about the symptomatic visitors”. This can apply for any event sizes.
CDC Issues Coronavirus Guidelines for Large Events
Websites You Should check daily:
- (WHO) World Health Organisation
- CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- PHE (Public Health England)
- Association of Event Organisers (AEO)
Last but not least, we recommend you:
- Nominate a person in your team that is responsible to monitor official guidelines on COVID-19
- Design your event in a way that reduces the mass concentration. For example: at arrival and departure areas; avoiding peak times on public transport and whether possible choosing virtual or partially virtual participation options.
- Have a strategy ready to deal with symptomatic people at your event – i.e. create a quarantine space; contact the public health authorities; venue sanitising; waste disposal; staff protection. All this information should be included in staff briefings.
Finally, the Events Industry Council (EIC) member organisations are giving constant updates with industry detailed instructions:
- AHLA: Facts about Coronavirus
- ASAE: Issue roundup: Coronavirus and upcoming webinar
- Destinations International: Destination management during a crisis.
- FICP: Statement on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
- HSMAI: A revenue leader’s response and the best action in a crisis
- IAEE: List of resources and survey to gauge the worldwide impact
- IAVM: Stream the webinar recording and read blog posts on Coronavirus
- ICCA: Comprehensive resource guide
- IELA: Statement and necessary information
- MPI: Resource page and survey results
- PCMA: What business events professionals need to know about the novel coronavirus, resource page and EIC webinar recap
- SISO: UFI and SISO launch global campaign to support the exhibitions and events industry
- SITE: COVID-19 aka Coronavirus
- USTA: Toolkit on Emergency Preparedness and Response: Coronavirus