There’s no understating the toll of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s been scary, heartbreaking, and financially devastating for many, and unsettling for most.
Meeting professionals, however, may be more suited to the disruption than others. The job requires flexibility, the ability to think on your feet, and great organizational skills. In fact, I see three opportunities for planners as their organizations navigate this crisis.
Leadership. When events are canceled or postponed, meeting professionals have an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership, organization, and negotiation skills. They’re at the epicenter of communications with senior executives, attendees, sponsors, speakers, and staff, who need clear (and customized) messaging about issues like refunds, cancellation fees, and what comes next. This stuff doesn’t just happen. On that note, I’ll give a shout-out to Erica Vallecorsa and the rest of the team at Informa Connect–CBI, with whom we partner to produce Pharma Forum each spring. We canceled the March 8-11 educational and networking event in New York City, which had registered about 700 pharmaceutical and life sciences meeting professionals and suppliers; the tireless CBI team will be finalizing the revised summer event soon.
Risk management. If you’ve been looking for executive buy-in on developing a comprehensive risk management plan for your meetings, COVID-19 has laid the groundwork for that conversation. Your organization and events team must understand its duty of care for participants, how to assess and minimize risk, what to do in emergencies (and how to train for them), and the right way to transfer or mitigate risk through contract language and, for some events, meeting insurance. This is an area where meeting professionals can take a leadership role, positioning their organization to be ready for the next crisis. Take the quiz in our April issue (Firefox browser is preferred) to see how much you know about mitigating risk through cancellation, attrition, and force majeure clauses. For a deeper dive into a variety of risk management issues, mark your calendar for MeetingsNet’s Risk360 one-day conferences planned for Los Angeles on September 29 and New York City on November 5.
Virtual meetings. People still need training because businesses need to move forward. Another leadership opportunity from the current crisis is managing online meetings. While not right for every situation, versatile planners can adapt to a challenging meeting environment by pivoting to virtual events. Use MeetingsNet as a resource for making the transition, including this article on creating an online conference and our April 15 webinar that will discuss how to make the switch from a live to a virtual event. Also, our May digital edition will feature a detailed report on the role virtual meetings will play in the changed business landscape we’ll face once the pandemic ends.
Stay healthy, keep innovating, and I know we all look forward to brighter days for the meetings industry.