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While the whole world has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the event and meeting industry has found itself in a particularly tough spot.
We gathered a panel of event professionals (virtually, of course) to answer a few questions about how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting their plans—and how they’re managing during this challenging time for the event and hospitality industries.
Christina Conway (CC) - Experiential Marketing Manager, Humanscale
Alex Paredes (AP) - Executive Assistant
Jennifer Sauber (JS) - Internal Meeting Lead
Kathleen Hinton (KH) - Corp Events Leader
Juraj Holub (JH) - Head of Communications, Slido
How has the coronavirus crisis affected your plans?
CC: Every tradeshow and event on the books through the summer has been cancelled. We are being cautiously optimistic about the fall events. Spring is already the busy season and the initial weeks were tough adding extra work to keep plans moving forward while adding additional plans in case of cancellation.
JS: I have oversight of the conference center at our world headquarters and when the stay-at-home order was put in place, all meetings and events were either postponed or cancelled. Employees are now using virtual means to meet with their teams and while these were in place before the crisis, it is now the way we remain connected.
JH: We were planning on launching Slido for Education at SXSW EDU in early March. The conference was cancelled at the last minute. We know the team behind the event and we can’t imagine how hard it must have been.
What’s been the biggest challenge as you navigate the crisis?
CC: Balancing communication. Wanting to give others “space” to think while politely and gently nudging because I need information to make informed decisions so we can keep moving forward.
JS: The unknowns. How long will there be limitations on large group gatherings? How long will social distancing be in play? To some extent, we need to make assumptions to determine if and how a meeting or event will move forward and then getting involved on board with the decision.
KH: I find it most difficult to cancel an anticipated event with the corresponding feelings of disappointment, by the attendees, the vendors and event partners. It affects livelihoods and destroys great expectations. So the real challenge is to stay positive and keep planning.
How will your events change in the near and distant future in response to this crisis?
CC: In the near future, we are modifying our most important event of the year to a digital format. It is a product launch event which will include presentations by designers, sustainability action plans, ergonomic and wellness tips and a happy hour. Which, come to think of it, are the same elements we incorporate into in-person events. The goals and branding are the same but the strategy and execution are different.
AP: Looking to the future, travel will probably be very limited, while I will need to create more space to respect social distancing along with heightened sanitary practices. Promoting a contact-less atmosphere where documents are not passed from hand to hand, people keep things to themselves as opposed to innocent action like passing a water bottle to a colleague, etc.
KH: The priority going forward is to stay true to the basics of event leadership by providing trusted guidance, developing clear goals, and delivering realistic results for key stakeholders. The challenge is to become skilled to do that with virtual events rather than live events.
How have you been inspired by the event professionals community through all of this?
KH: I continue to be inspired by people who are dealing with difficulty in their own lives yet still find compassion and concern for others. I received an email from a hotel friend sharing news that the hotel has remained open to keep its employees employed and even lit up the hotel facade with a giant heart that shines bright on dark Chicago nights. I’ve received texts from former event contacts turned friends, sharing stories of working from home and homeschooling. These relationships give confidence that we will rise above the challenges and forge ahead together to keep planning.
For more helpful articles like this, please visit Catalyst, Convene’s meeting, event, and workplace blog. Like what you read? Subscribe by email for new stories every week.