Facing Force Majeure: Is Coronavirus Foreshadowing the Future of Event Planning?

February 28, 2020 Array Team

What do Cisco, the House of Armani, Salesforce, Facebook, and JP Morgan Chase have in common?All of these businesses cancelled their large onsite events in response to growing global concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).


What Is the Impact of Coronavirus on Meetings and Events?

As a force majeure, the financial impact of coronavirus is being felt across the tradeshow and meeting and event industry. Related industries such as hotel, airline, and consumable goods are also being affected. Forecasts for near future events are dire, as the ability for companies to plan and execute onsite events is risky at best. Concerns about the fast-moving virus being transmitted from one traveler or event attendee to another is causing event postponements and cancellations.

Julius Solaris of the EventManagerBlog.com examined the reasoning behind the cancellations of large events here. In summary, 3 reasons that events are being cancelled are:

1) Travel restrictions and/or reluctance of attendees and exhibitors

2) Events are scheduled in highly-impacted areas

3) Corporate events are a source of potential liability


How Are Companies Who Plan Meetings Mitigating Coronavirus-Related Losses?

Some companies, such as Salesforce, quickly pivoted to offer virtual events. Salesforce cancelled their Salesforce World Tour 2020 Sydney event that was scheduled for March 4, 2020. They were concerned about flights connecting through highly-impacted COVID-19 areas, and attendees and exhibitors from these areas not being able to attend the event. A statement on the company’s website shares a succinct announcement of the change and positions the event as, “A full program of inspiration and enablement direct to you, streamed from Australia completely online for the first time ever.

This strategy allowed them to remarket to existing registrants and preserve planned paid presenters and content to meet their customers’ needs. In addition, they repositioned the event as a demonstration of their virtual meeting technology. This further demonstrated the benefits of the event, even as they tracked event cancellation losses, as uncertainty surrounds the insurance claims surrounding cancellation due to communicable diseases.


Alternatives to Hosting In-Person Meetings and Events

The silver lining to all of this? You, too, can follow Salesforce’s lead and turn lemons into lemonade.

An excellent alternative to live events? Interactive, engaging virtual and hybrid virtual/onsite events.

When you maximize the value of virtual and hybrid meetings, you’ll mitigate your financial losses and expand the value of your event with registrants. Here’s how:

1. Allow your participants to decide the format.

Some people love to hit the road, stay in a hotel, dine out, shake hands, network and socialize at onsite events.. They may not see coronavirus as a threat to their safety, and aren’t traveling to or from an affected area.

For every road warrior, though, there is a person who would prefer to be in their home or office, who is stressing about travel time, childcare arrangements, risk of exposure to coronavirus or other communicable diseases during travel or at an event, and who would love to adopt alternative greetings to replace the germ-spreading handshake.

Why not let participants decide how they want to join your event? Offer a hybrid event, allowing attendees the choice to travel to your event, or to participate with the same interactive elements and content from their chosen location via an interactive virtual platform.

Not sure where to begin? Refer to our post about choosing the best virtual and hybrid meeting tools here.


2. Focus on the benefits of sustainability.

A virtual event reduces carbon emissions, as well as the amount of consumable goods. Event Sustainability Specialist Shawna McKinley says, “Sustainable events can be less risky from a planner perspective because you’re anticipating shortcomings in practice that could be a source of criticism of financial loss. For example, green practices for sponsors could help them avoid wasteful representations of their brand to attendees, which might be critiqued on social media.”

3. Maximize interactivity and long-term consumability of event content.

MeetingsNet gives a great overview of how a host organization might be able to not only preserve its exhibit revenue, but increase the value to exhibitors and attendees. Exhibitors are going to get more data than they could hope to gather from attendees at an onsite event by being able to create engagement data

An onsite event is one-and-done. You plan, execute, and follow up from your event, but the content and experience is over once the event is over. Your event ROI begins and ends with the event itself.

Creating a virtual option allows for the preservation of all of presentation content. It allows participants to engage with the event and content even if they were unable to attend the onsite event. You continue to generate revenue for your company and exhibitors through archived content, and provide maximal value to your participants by allowing live participation or access to archived content. “Meeting analytics tools, presentation software, and ROI-boosting resources can help planners create effective and exciting interactive meetings,” says Zack Palmer, COO and President of Array.


How Do You Maximize Your Event to Minimize Negative Impact?

The more interactive your events are, the more data you gather, and the more engaged your attendees are. Offering your event registrants a choice of formats that include onsite, hybrid, or an all-virtual with archived content provides all of the benefits of your onsite event without inadvertently exposing them to COVID-19 or other issues, and instills in your registrants a sense of empathy from you and positive regard for your company.


Need assistance adding a hybrid component to your onsite meeting or converting to all virtual? We'd love to help you protect your attendees from the risk of COVID-19 and your company from the financial impact of a meeting cancellation. Contact us.



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