Whether you were planning a business event, conference, trade show, or wedding, in most parts of the world, governments are prohibiting events to stop the virus from spreading. What do you do now?
In this article, we collect all the tips we can give organisers and event companies. Do you have additions yourself? Be sure to share them in the comments below the article so that our editors can pick them up and share them. Together, we are strong.
The impact of the Coronavirus on our sector has been massive. Most countries are prohibiting events to prevent the spread of the virus. What does this mean in concrete terms and how should our sector proceed?
Follow the news and guidelines
Follow government news and recommendations closely from reliable sources. Stay critical of social media posts and remember, panic is the worst advisor. Make informed decisions to continue, cancel, or postpone your event or turn it into a digital webinar.
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Cancelled event or party? What does that mean for my contract?
One of the first things people are concerned about is the financial consequences of cancelling an event. Do I have to pay as an organiser? As an event location or supplier, am I entitled to compensation? These are all legitimate concerns, for which, unfortunately, there are no clear solutions. After all, everything depends on the contract you have concluded.
Most agreements have a "force majeure" clause that allows either party to terminate the agreement without compensation. The Coronavirus pandemic can be considered force majeure as soon as the government requires you to cancel your event. However, many events have previously been cancelled or postponed, which means that you will legally be in a different situation and will have to look at the cancellation conditions provided in the agreement. Each case will therefore have to be considered individually.
However, many event professionals call for solidarity. Our industry comprises many small companies and self-employed people who do not have large buffers to safely guide their business through these unprecedented circumstances. If you are bound by compensation, do not discuss it. Be creative and make agreements that help everyone stay afloat.
What if there is no written contract? In that case, you can invoke force majeure and no compensation is due. However, if the cancellation is unilateral and without force majeure, in theory, compensation can be paid for an oral agreement as well. The problem arises when the counterparty denies there being an oral agreement.
Can I postpone my event?
Postponing your event to a later date can indeed be a good idea as long as the theme and your message remain current. Talk to your event agency, suppliers and event location/party venue to find solutions. Searching for a new date is not going to be easy. We expect high demand in the months after the summer. This period is busy anyway and many requests for accommodating postponed events are now being added. In any case, communicate clearly with all your partners and guests about the steps you propose.
Unfortunately, we do not know when the storm will blow over. It may not be a good idea to simple push your event by a few weeks.
When postponing your event, also check the costs your suppliers have already incurred and their position regarding compensation. While procrastination may be better for all parties than stopping the event from happening at all, the location, freelancers, and suppliers who lose revenue before the original date and may already have incurred out-of-pocket costs remain impacted.
Can I claim my insurance?
The only type of insurance that can cover the financial consequences of the Coronavirus is cancellation insurance. This is a policy that you take out separately for each event. You will not find such cover in your normal annual policies. In addition, the terms and cover differ from contract to contract. Contact your event insurer to determine whether you are entitled to compensation.
If you have insurance that covers the consequences of the virus, this usually concerns a cover of the organisational costs incurred or the turnover of your event. The type of cover will therefore determine the amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
Finally, do not forget that insurers will reimburse you only if it concerns actual force majeure that is determined externally (not when you decide to cancel yourself) and you were unaware of the circumstances when you concluded the agreement. If you have taken an insurance after the virus outbreak, the insurer may decide that it is not covered by the conditions of the policy.
Practical steps when cancelling
If you cancel or postpone your event, follow these steps:
- Make an informed, intelligent and reasoned decision
- Communicate as quickly and clearly as possible to all stakeholders involved (guests, partners, speakers, staff, and so on)
- Do not forget to stop the visitor registration and make changes to your website to reflect the current status
- For paying events, check what your obligations are with regard to the refund of tickets
- Please contact any media personnel who shared your post; they may be able to add an update to the article, indicating that your event has been cancelled or postponed
Especially when postponing your event, it is important to clearly communicate the new date.
How do I reassure guests and stakeholders?
When communicating the cancellation or postponement of an event, the best approach is completely transparent communication. Participants will definitely be disappointed but will understand your decision. Also provide a FAQ with immediate answers about the impact for your target group. Do they get their tickets refunded or is there credit for a future event? Is there a new date? What about costs incurred by exhibitors? Also, be honest about what you do not know and what you are still figuring out.
Should I organise a virtual event?
Certain events have already announced that they are going virtual, such as Apple's Developer Conference. Some events, such as congresses, are extremely suitable for live streaming; but this does not apply to every event. Events revolve around unique experiences and merely looking at them on the computer screen is really not the same.
"There has to be interaction. You tailor the experience that you offer your participants to your event, but you also adapt it to their specific expectations. It is not easy to capture the attention of your guests with a live event. This challenge is even greater online, which is why it is crucial to take into account the interaction and content that you want to offer your online participants right from the concept phase. This is the only way to get the attention and commitment of your online participants", writes Kevin Van der Straeten in his book EVENTS. "As a starting point for a successful internet broadcast, it is best to get inspiration from classic TV formats. Your guests are familiar with these formats and that immediately creates a safe environment. Virtual meetings are still a bit awkward for some participants, so you take that fear of the threshold. A virtual host is definitely an added value to your event. Just like a day chairman at your live event, this presenter guides your online guests through the event. The big difference with a classic TV show is the interaction. Online viewers can vote, ask questions and interact with each other, therefore, with the exception of very small events, you install a separate 'online' team that can monitor all interactions about the live event via chat, social media, etc., but is also responsible for the technical side of the story. Making TV is a special profession, so call on specialists. "
How should I proceed with my event company or location?
Governments are providing numerous support measures to affected companies. Make the most of it if you get into trouble, but also talk to suppliers and customers. There is a lot of solidarity and if we help each other, we can overcome this crisis together, stronger than before.
Unexpected situations bring out creativity in humankind. Restaurants are starting take-out service – can this be applied to some event caterers too? For example, our editorial staff has already noticed stand builders who now make furniture for private individuals. Think out-of-the-box and there may also be an opportunity for your company to sail through these weeks.
Soon the storm will blow over, and we will start running in all directions again. Take advantage of these weeks to reflect on how you can make your company more resilient in the future. Take the time to give your event venue that new coat of paint that you never got around to or update your website. Get ready to (hopefully) get back to it soon and do what you are good at: giving people a wonderful experience at special events. On eventplanner.net, we see an increase in the number of applications for the coming months. Make sure you can cash in on those assignments.
Update your business page or create one, if your company is not yet listed on eventplanner.net. Finally, get started collecting reviews, something you have always postponed. Or post your first post. We are happy to invite you!
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Be sure to share your questions, suggestions, and advice below this article. Together we are strong!
Kevin Van der Straeten
Kevin Van der Straeten is founder and managing director of eventplanner.net. He is host of eventplanner.tv and author of the bestseller EVENTS.