How events can deal with the Coronavirus crisis

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“The show must go on” is the golden rule of event management. But this year, the Coronavirus/COVID-19 has put that principle into question. A mix of contagion risk, government mandates, and misinformation has created the perfect storm for managers and volunteers of events taking place in the first half of 2020.

Here is a list of recommendations you can follow in order to better your chances of making your event happen. At the end of this article you will also find a list of events that have been already cancelled or postponed due to the current outbreak.

Prepping the venue

The first thing an event manager should do is to contact their venue to see if they will remain open for the foreseeable future and until your event takes place. Talk honestly with the location coordinator about how the Coronavirus crisis may affect your event, including the number of attendants, personnel, and agenda. 

Discuss different scenarios to make the festival work, including setup of antibacterial stands and cleanup rounds frequency. Design an emergency area where staff or special guests can go if they start feeling sick. This area should not be the same as the first aid station (to prevent contagion) and it should have a health professional present.

Check your venue contract and discuss the cancellation clauses (remember to have legal assistance while doing so). If your event is postponed, secure your alternate date by signing a new contract before publishing the new event date.

Partner up

Talk with key collaborators: hotel managers, media partners, airlines, and other stakeholders. Identify the responsibilities they have, and inform them about the important decisions they should inform you so you can adjust your planning. 

Your most important partner will be your local public health office, since you will need to have a direct line of communication with them in order to know the latest mitigation plans and crisis updates. Be in touch with a local hospital as well, and make a list of physicians who you can call to diagnose any potential case.

Learn and teach preventive actions.

Learn how to do preventive actions correctly. This includes: 

  • Washing your hands.
  • The “vampire sneeze”.
  • Avoiding touching your face.
  • Cleaning contact areas.
  • Staying home if you get sick. 

Print out health messages about these actions and keep them visible to your team and event participants. Make these messages in several languages if your event has international participants.

Encourage everyone to follow health recommendations by providing prevention supplies including hand soap, sanitizers, and tissues. Keep disposable face masks at hand, but only give them out to persons who start having symptoms.

Most of all, ask people to stay home if they are sick. 

Work remotely when possible

Make remote work possible and plan for major staff absences due to personal sickness or child care caused by school closures. Identify critical roles that must be done personally, and train this staff on preventive actions.

Limit the personal contact for volunteers helping out in your event. You can achieve this by offering digital volunteering opportunities, using a digital task manager (like Zelos!), and doing video calls instead of in-person meetings. Schedule shifts so the number of staff needed to provide guest services is as small as possible.

If your event is flexible enough, stream the activities to the people who got tickets but cannot attend due to the crisis. 

Be prepared to call-in sick yourself. Make sure someone can take over your duties and that you are ready to run things remotely as much as possible.

Learn to identify the COVID-19 symptoms

The main symptoms of the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) are:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Potential coronavirus cases should be taken to your emergency care point and receive medical advice immediately. If a case is officially diagnosed, remember that this person must not be in contact with others to prevent further contagion.

How to cancel or postpone an event due to Coronavirus

Cancelling an event is not an easy decision. Here are some key factors that will influence this choice:

  • Official mandates: if the government requests public meetings to be cancelled, then there is no other option.
  • Venues closures: if your original venue closes and there is no other available place, it’s time to make the call.
  • Cancelled participants: if the number of participants gets too low to break even, it’s better to decide to postpone or not to host the event.
  • Lack of resources: if your team does not have the personnel or resources needed to keep things running safely, you should cancel the event.

Create an extraordinary refund policy for this year’s ticket holders. Offer them a full or partial refund, as well as the option of making their ticket fee valid for next year’s edition.

In case of cancelling your event, clear communication is critical. Be sure to inform your guests, speakers, and volunteers about the reasons behind this tough decision. Publish a PR release in all your social profiles, and inform your media partners about it. Create a virtual hotline to answer any questions regarding your refund policy and future plans. Finally, don’t forget to include the cancellation notice on your website and include your future plans.

The current Coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak may take a long time to resolve. Don’t forget to stay updated regarding the latest developments in order to adjust your event planning accordingly. Below you can read the list of events that have been cancelled or postponed due to the 2020 outbreak.

coronavirus closure

List of events cancelled or postponed due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

‘No Time to Die’ film premiere (postponed)
34th National Institute on White Collar Crime
4GAMECHANGERS (postponed)
AI Everything(postponed)
AKS Color Festival 2020
ANON Summit (postponed)
ASEAN summit
Adobe Summit
Africa Tech Summit London (postponed)
American Physical Society annual meeting
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cinderella’ London premiere (postponed)
Annual U.S. Senate Youth Program
Arab Lab The Expo (postponed)
Art Basel Hong Kong
Art Dubai (postponed)
Asia Crypto Week (postponed)
Atlassian Summit
Atmosphere 2020
Auto China 2020 (postponed)
Avril Lavigne’s Head Above Water World Tour
BNP Paribas’ European Bank Executive Committee Forum
BTS Map of the Soul Tour
Baltimore’s Women of the World Festival
Beautycounter Lead 2020
Bentonville Film Festival (postponed)
Berlin Travel Festival (postponed)
Bitcoin 2020 Conference (postponed)
Black Hat Asia
Bold Awards (postponed)
Bologna Children’s Book Fair (postponed)
CLOUDFEST (Europa-Park, Germany)
Cannesseries event (postponed)
Chicago State University basketball games
China’s National People’s Congress
Chinese Grand Prix (postponed)
Cisco Live Melbourne
Cisco Live Melbourne (Melbourne, Australia)
Club Social Dubai
Coachella (postponed)
CodeMobile (London, UK)
CoinFestUK  (postponed)
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island
Collision Conference
Digital Advertising Week (postponed)
Digital Asset Summit (postponed)
Digital Takeover (postponed)
Disney+ London launch
Doha Film Institute
Dubai International Boat Show (postponed)
Dubai Lynx (postponed)
EG Conference (postponed)
Emerald City Comic Con (postponed)
Empire Banking and Fintech Innovation Roundtable(postponed)
Empire Fintech Conference (postponed)
Expo-Sciences Luxembourg
Facebook Developers Conference (San Jose, USA)
Facebook Global Marketing Summit
Facebook developer conference
Feb. 24-27: Mobile World Congress
Fortune Brainstorm Design (postponed)
Game Developers Conference (postponed)
Game Developers Conference (San Francisco, USA)
Global Gaming Expo Asia (postponed)
Goldman Sachs’s Disruptive Technology Symposium (postponed)
Google’s Cloud Next ’20
Google’s I/O developer conference
Google’s I/O (Mountain View, USA)
Green Day’s ‘Hella Mega Tour’
Gucci fashion show
HITEC Europe (postponed)
Hello Tomorrow Global Summit (postponed)
Hong Kong Blockchain Week (postponed)
Hong Kong Filmart (postponed)
IBM Think 2020
IDC  Directions conference
IT Trans
ITB Berlin
ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi
Ingram Micro Cloud Summit (postponed)
Intel Labs Day
International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights
International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings
International Ocean Film Festival
Internet World Expo (postponed)
JEC World (postponed)
Japan Azalea Festival
Joint AE Institute
Korea Times Music Festival (postponed)
KubeCon + CloudNativeCon + Open Source Summit China 2020 (Shanghai, China)
KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe (postponed)
LEAP Summit (postponed)
Lesbians Who Tech Summit (postponed)
Livre Paris book fair
MIPTV (Cannes, France)
Magnuson 2020 Awards dinner
Mecca foreign pilgrimages
Microsoft’s MVP Summit
Milan Furniture Fair (postponed)
Mind The Product (Singapore) — series of digital events planned instead
Mobile Growth Summit Singapore (postponed)
Mobile World Congress (incl. 4YFN and xside) (Barcelona, Spain)
Music Bank (postponed)
NXT Global Summit (Las Vegas, USA)
Natural Products Expo West (postponed)
Natural Products Expo West (postponed)
NetApp Insight (postponed)
New York Fintech Week (postponed)
Northwestern University Annual Dance Marathon
Nvidia GPU Technology Conference
Okta (OKTA) has shifted Oktane 2020 (postponed)
Oracle Modern Business Experience 2020 (Oracle MBX) 
O’Reilly Strata Data Conference 
Paris Blockchain Week Summit (postponed)
Pubcon Florida (postponed)
Qualtrics X4
Realtor Broker Summit
Reboot Ideas Festival (postponed)
Rencontres 7e Art Lausanne (Think Cinema Lausanne)
Residential Energy Storage Forum (postponed)
START Summit (Saint Gallen, Switzerland)
SXSW (South by Southwest)
SaaStr Annual 2020
San Francisco Ballet, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” performances
San Francisco Symphony concerts (until March 20)
Saudi Arabia’s inaugural Red Sea International Film Festival
Seamless Middle East (postponed)
Shopify Unite
Shoptalk (postponed)
Skinnovation (Innsbruck, Austria)
Skoll World Forum (Oxford, UK)
Springbreak Luxembourg
St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) (St Petersburg, Russia)
Stagecoach (postponed)
Stanford Theatre’s Akira Kurosawa Film Festival
Suisse’s European Banks Conference (postponed)
Summit Summit (Reykjavik, Iceland)
TED conference (postponed)
TOKEN2049 (postponed)
Taste Of Dubai (postponed)
Tech and business
Thailand Grand Prix (postponed)
The 22nd annual Thessaloniki Documentary Festival (postponed)
The American Physical Society conference
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons spring meeting
The Apache Flink Forward North America (San Francisco, USA)
The Arch Summit (postponed)
The Geneva International Motor Show
The Inspired Home Show
The London Book Fair
The Sea Otter Classic (postponed)
The World Petrochemical Conference
Tokyo, Beijing and Shanghai Fashion Weeks (postponed)
Tomorrowland Winter 2020
Triangulating Intelligence
TwitchCon Europe (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
U18 Ice Hockey World Championships
Ultra Music Festival
Ultra Music Festival Dubai
VB BLUEPRINT (postponed)
Voxxed Days Bucharest (Bucharest, Romania)
Western Balkans Digital Summit (Tirana, Albania)
Women of the Vine & Spirits Global Symposium 2020 (postponed)
World Athletics Indoor Championships in Nanjing (postponed to 2021)
X4 London (postponed)
Y Combinator’s March 30 Demo Day
Zendesk Relate conference
ad:tech New Delhi (postponed)
eMerge Americas (postponed)
hub conference & Big-Data.AI Summit (Berlin, Germany)
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Last edited: March 11, 2020, 12 PM EEST. Sources: CDC, USA Today, Deadline, RTL, Barron’s, The Wrap, SF Chronicle, Quartz, CurlyTales, Re-event.