My heart goes out to everyone affected by the Coronavirus & COVID-19 outbreak.
Business carries on, but if you are hosting a meeting or event right now, there’s a good chance that it isn’t “business as usual.” Travel disruptions and health concerns have resulted in many events and meetings needing to be postponed and speakers being forced to cancel their engagements.
This episode’s question is from Sylvie, who writes:
“Dear Lauren, I have a regional meeting and professional development event coming up with about 150 people attending. The COVID-19 has been causing problems. We’re looking at travel restrictions, and one speaker has already pulled out. The meeting is just a few weeks away, and I’m not sure how to salvage this. Do you have any suggestions for how we can handle this situation?
Thanks for your advice, Sylvie.”
While I’m not an event planner, I can certainly weigh in with a few options from the perspective of a professional speaker. So let’s talk contingency plans and look at options for salvaging our events and meetings – after all, there are many ways to connect and communicate. I’ve got lots of links to resources below the blurb, so scroll down and check them out!
(Embedded video being fussy? You can scroll down for the full transcript or click here to watch it directly on YouTube.)
I hope you find this video helpful – if so, please share it with your beleaguered colleagues who are involved with meeting/event planning, click “like” and subscribe to my channel (don’t forget to ring that notification bell!).
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
- World Health Organization – Key planning recommendations for Mass Gatherings in the context of the current COVID-19 outbreak
- Meeting Planners International – Coronavirus tools for meeting planners
- Meetings Mean Business – Coronavirus Resources for Meeting Planners
- WIRED – Amid Coronavirus Fears, Startups Rething the Virtual Conference
- Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
- National Speakers Association (US)
- Global Speakers Federation
- Zoom Videoconference
- Google – Entreprise (premium) version of chat/videoconferencing tool available for free to Gsuite users until July 1, 2020
Are you hosting a work or business event or meeting and have found that the Coronavirus or COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into your plans? Keep watching.
Hello, I’m Lauren Sergy. This is Communication Q&A, where we deal with thorny communication and public speaking issues so that you can have clearer, better communication as well as better speaking in your work and life.
Now over the past few weeks, of course, we have seen concerns about Coronavirus and COVID-19 increasing, especially in terms of the events and meeting space. We’re seeing very, very real impacts on the events that people are hosting for their industries or their businesses or work.
I’ve received a question recently that I really wanted to answer about this. This question is coming from Sylvie, who asks “Dear Lauren, I have a regional meeting and professional development event coming up with about 150 people attending. The COVID-19 has been causing problems. We’re looking at travel restrictions, and one speaker has already pulled out. The meeting is just a few weeks away, and I’m not sure how to salvage this. Do you have any suggestions for how we can handle this situation? Thanks for your advice, Sylvie.”
Sylvie, this is a great questions, and just to be totally up front, I’m going to be speaking about this from the perspective of a professional speaker. Someone who participates in a lot of events, as opposed to the perspective of an event or meeting planner. They are two different angles and two different things you might want to consider.
In terms of what you would want to look into for actually running the event – assuming that it goes ahead – and how to keep everyone safe and healthy, I recommend you check out 2 fantastic resources.
One is from the WHO on hosting meetings and holding events during the COVID-19 outbreak, and the other is from Meeting Professionals International, which is their official response to running events with the Coronavirus being the way it is right now. I’ve linked to both those resources in the description down below. Please check them out. They’re longer documents but are worth a read because they cover really important health and safety information for anyone who is running a large meeting or hosting an event.
As you and I’m sure many people watching this video have seen and heard, there are a lot of really big global events – I mean big conferences and trade shows – that have already been getting cancelled left, right, and centre. We are also seeing a lot of small meetings and events being cancelled due to travel restrictions. And you yourself mentioned that you already have had a speaker pull out because of this.
This is to be expected right now. It’s unlikely that many events or meetings are going to be able to avoid different kinds of impact, especially when you have people travelling in from across the region, country, or from different countries. So we’re looking more at strategies for how to mitigate and how to make the most of what you still have going on in terms of your event.
My first piece of advice to you for dealing with this is to Go Local. This recommendation is good for events such as yours, smaller events that are mostly happening within one region, as opposed to, you know, being a nation wide or international sort of event.
By Go Local, I mean look at finding speakers, trainers, and experts that are in your own backyard, who could come to speak at this event. Very often when we’re looking for speakers, for different people to come in and give their expertise, we think that we need to look at other cities, or even other countries to find someone really interesting who is going to captivate and engage our audience.
But as a professional speaker, I can tell you right now that there are likely many people in your own backyard who can give outstanding presentations, who have fantastic knowledge and wisdom and insight to share with your people, who would be more than happy to come in and speak at your event – even if it’s to cover at the last minute due to a cancellation.
You can look to organizations such as the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, the National Speakers Association (down in the US), or the Global Speakers Federation, which is an international speaker body to locate speakers across the country in whatever region or country you may be in, who can come in and give an outstanding performance that will engage the attendees at your meeting.
Number two is to Go Virtual. I will tell you right now: videoconferencing is awesome! If you haven’t considered doing it before for your meetings, I definitely recommend looking into it as a very viable option to keep this meeting, this professional development event, going and viable.
Videoconferencing technology and the quality of the connection and the streaming is only getting better and better. Many speakers and trainers, such as myself, have developed specific programs – specific keynotes, seminars, and online training programs – that are intended to be delivered over videoconferencing. So we have virtual keynotes and virtual seminars set up and ready to go.
In fact, some of my favorite experiences have been in giving virtual keynote presentations where I was speaking to an audience distributed across the country. Many hundreds of people called in to take part in this event and in these seminars, and you know what? We had a great time together! It was very interactive because we had the right sort of videoconferencing setup going on. I was able to take questions, I was able to speak to people, to pull in callers so we could have back-and-forth conversations right then and there, live during the event. It was a great overall experience that brought a lot of value to everybody involved.
So if there is the option to say to the speaker who cancelled “Hey, can you do this as a virtual keynote?” then talk to them. Explore that as an option with them, because that could still create a really, really great experience for the people who are still showing up to your event live as well as for people who might not have the option to travel themselves.
There are a lot of inexpensive videoconferencing software options available if you don’t already have one set up internally. My favorite right now is Zoom videoconference. And full disclosure: this is NOT a sponsored content, this is not a paid endorsement for Zoom at all. It’s just a system that I use and a system that I found very reliable, that I like.
In response to the coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreak, Google has made their Enterprise level videoconferencing software available for free to all GSuite users. Now again, this is not a sponsored post and I have not checked out the software myself, but I’ve heard that it is an outstanding option – one that even if you do not have a lot of videoconferencing software available to you, if you are a Gsuite user you can jump on and use. They’re making this option available to people up to July 1st, so if your event is taking place before then (and you mentioned, Sylvie, that your event is happening within the next few weeks), this could be something you look in to.
Your last option and the least desirable and realistically most expensive option is to Reschedule the event altogether. If you are looking at rescheduling your event, give it a really long lead time. We just don’t know how long the coronavirus outbreak is going to be impacting events and people’s ability to travel. You might be looking at rescheduling as far ahead as, you know, 8 or 10 months out in advance at this point.
If you are looking at rescheduling your event, this is a very good time to look into the option of hosting it as a virtual event – kind of going up to tip number two that I spoke about. If you give yourself a few months to get everything organized, you can put together a really slick online summit that means you won’t need to worry about whether or not the event is going to be cancelled or rescheduled again. I’ve taken part in many online summits myself, they are a wonderful experience and a really good alternative to needing people to meet in person – especially when you’re looking at the possibility of future cancellations and more travel restrictions down the road.
If you are thinking of re-tooling this event to an online event, you know – going through the whole rescheduling process and going for an online event or summit, you might want to consider seeing if you can find a professional who specializes in hosting and running online events. A meeting planner for the online space. Professionals out there do exist, check out your local MPI chapter, ask around and see if anyone in your area is experienced in hosting online events, and I’m sure you will be able to find someone who can help you reschedule your event and re-tool it as an online summit so you don’t need to run the risk of rescheduling again.
There you go, Sylvie, three options for you in terms of dealing with your upcoming meeting and the cancellations that have happened or could potentially happen. Again, those options are to Go Local, to Go Virtual, or to Reschedule. I’m sure that in there you will find a way of making your event happen in one form or another.
Thank you so much for asking this question. To everyone else out there: how have you been dealing with travel restrictions and with event cancellations or reschedulings in your own industry? I would love to hear your stories down in the comments below because as we share this information we only get to find more tips and tricks for dealing with this from people like you, who have dealt with it before and who might have some advice to share.
Thank you so much for tuning into this somewhat impromptu Communication Q&A. Again, I am not in my usual recording studio but I wanted to get a response to this question out quickly while it was still very much top of people’s minds. In the meantime, I hope you stay healthy, keep communicating, keep talking. We’re gonna be able to pull through this together. Take care, everybody.