If your organization is planning a conference in the next few months, then you have been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 (the novel Coronavirus). You’ve likely seen a few large shows cancel their events. The meetings industry has weathered many changes and disasters from hurricanes, to terrorism, to economic downturns to disease outbreaks and we can handle this one too. Now is time to prepare for the potential impact of COVID-19 on your events.
We have the good fortune of working with many medical groups who are level-headed and not panicking about the situation. Their attendees are well-educated about these types of situations. Here’s the steps we are taking for our clients’ upcoming events to ensure we’re ready for any potential impact:
- Reviewing cancellation and force majeure clauses for each facility, hotel, and vendor contract.
- Reviewing event cancellation insurance policies.
- Monitoring any cancellation requests from attendees and exhibitors.
- Monitoring housing blocks.
- Exploring alternatives for attendees to access education and credits online if they are directly impacted by the outbreak.
- Creating cancellation policies pertaining to those directly impacted by travel restrictions, such as applying fees to future events or providing distance learning.
- Creating language for the conference website informing attendees of policies and options as well as answers to their frequently asked questions.
Each organization is unique. We recommend organizations consider the following actions as well:
- If an attendee is directly impacted by recent governmentally-imposed restrictions (e.g., travel bans because of global health concerns), consider providing recorded audio presentation that can be played by paid registrants unable to attend.
- Be prepared with plans should you encounter potential cases during your event by establishing a isolation area with your facility manager and have procedures in place for transporting symptomatic attendees to a healthcare facility.
- Encourage attendees to stay away from events when they are ill.
- Provide signage about hand hygiene and provide sanitizer stations.
- Monitor the global situation as it changes daily. The two organizations providing accurate, up-to-date resources are the World Health Organization (WHO) (WHO - Coronavirus Page and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) (CDC - Coronavirus Situation Summary).
Being prepared ahead of time is the best option for event managers to mitigate the situation and limit its impact on the event, it’s attendees and the organization.