Ten Practical Steps Organizations Can Implement to Proactively Respond to the Coronavirus

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Ten Practical Steps Organizations Can Implement to Proactively Respond to the Coronavirus

Our sympathies are with those affected by the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China and all around the world. The rapid spread of the virus globally has caused the cancellation or postponement of more than 25 exhibitions and conferences worldwide, including the 100,000 attendee Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week and Facebook’s Global Marketing Summit in San Francisco next month.

Many of the organizations we work with are feeling the impact as more and more conferences, working group meetings, and face-to-face gatherings of all kinds are canceled, postponed, or altered. While the situation is fluid and changes every day, if not every hour, there are a few practical steps that every association, consortia, and standards body organizations should be doing to prepare right now.

Here’s our top ten list:

  1. Communication is key: In a time of uncertainty, it’s critical to consistently and quickly communicate with members about the status of any upcoming meetings. The RSA Conference in San Francisco did a great job at this, providing frequent updates, useful resources, and full transparency on cancellations by exhibitors all in a centralized location here: https://www.rsaconference.com/novel-coronavirus-update.
  2. Have your supplies: The first line of defense is practicing good personal hygiene, specifically regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands. Be sure to have the proper materials, such as alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and signage throughout the venue reminding attendees to frequently clean their hands. 
  3. Leverage technology: While travel has been restricted or canceled, alternative plans are needed. Expect attendees to seek dial-ins for meetings that were previously face-to-face.
  4. Evaluate insurance coverage: Many event insurance policies have disclaimers for communicable diseases. Examine your policies closely and don’t forget to look at travel insurance for possible reimbursement for disrupted or canceled travel.
  5. Establish staff policies: At Virtual, our core policy is “Use Good Judgement.” This is an important time to reinforce that with your teams, make sure that your staff is proactively thinking about their travel plans over the next few months.
  6. Determine registration cancellation policies: For events that have pre-paid registration, begin to consider cancellations policies due to travel restrictions before your attendees ask.
  7. Rework budgets: For many organizations, meetings are a key source of revenue. Be sure to model the potential impact of possible loss of sponsorship or attendance on your organization’s short and long-term budgets.
  8. Share often: Within our organization, people have different intelligence and updates on travel restrictions and impact. Be sure your team is sharing this information ASAP.
  9. Your partners: We live in a globalized economy, it’s important that you understand how your partners and suppliers will be affected. For example, a majority of tradeshow giveaways are manufactured in China.
  10. Create a Plan B: Things change. Stay on top of information using resources such as the U S. Department of State STEP program and be ready to change plans as needed—from adding dial-ins to moving events to rerouting flights; flexibility and planning are the watchwords.

In twenty-plus years of helping associations, consortia, and standards bodies run events we’ve encountered it all—volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, acts of terror, water shortages, fires, and outbreaks. You can’t control circumstance, but hopefully, these tips help you control the impact.

If you have any questions, large or small, feel free to reach out to myself or Matt Landry, our Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations. Please do all you can to prepare now and when in doubt, err on the side of caution, and stay safe out there!

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