Coronavirus Forcing More Event Planners to Make Tough Decisions

Lauren Mumford |

male event planner sitting at a desk pondering his next move with the coronavirus outbreak to of mindThe impact of coronavirus is on the mind of just about every meeting and event planner today, and unfortunately, many in our industry have had to make some tough choices over the last few weeks, from postponing to outright canceling events large and small.

The cancelation of events due to coronavirus has also affected event tech providers, including Aventri, as we work alongside our clients during these difficult times. In fact, one of our biggest clients to cancel a major event was also one of the first events whose news rocked the industry, Mobile World Congress.

GSMA's Mobile World Congress was initially scheduled to take place last week in Barcelona, Spain, and was officially canceled about two weeks out from the event. The decision affected the plans of the 100,000+ people that typically attend or exhibit at this event annually, as well as the local economy. The show has an economic impact in Barcelona of 492 million euros, and also generates 14,100 part-time jobs, according to Verge.

"The ripple effect is definitely in effect," says Mike Sorgani, Aventri's vice president of experiential solutions sales at Aventri. "Mobile World Congress being canceled was a huge hit for exhibitors, attendees, and partners, as well as the city of Barcelona."

Making The Call to Cancel

2020 would have been the 14th or 15th year Mike has worked with GSMA on Mobile World Congress to provide their badging and check-in solution, first with ITN International, a company Aventri acquired in 2018. About four weeks out, Mike says he started hearing news of some of the event's largest exhibitors pulling out of the show. This was also when Mobile World Congress organizers started communicating their efforts to keep attendees safe, whether it was purchasing extra hand sanitizing stations or implementing a no handshake policy.

"I have to give Mobile World Congress a lot of credit," he says. "For about two weeks before their decision to cancel, there were nearly daily updates about what safety procedures and policies they were enacting. They were very clever to their approach, and I appreciated their efforts to try and get in front of the situation. That final cancelation announcement was done well, and it must have been very difficult to write."

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What to Expect as the Virus Spreads

Since the news about Mobile World Congress, more events have been postponed or have even gone virtual as precautions.  "Unfortunately, I don't think the worst is not over yet when it comes to the potential of event cancellations or drastic reductions in attendance," Mike says. "Unless we get a batch of good news over the next couple weeks, I think we can expect to see some more fallout from coronavirus around the globe."

Mike adds Aventri's onsite services team has contingency plans for events that are still on in coronavirus affected areas, especially when it comes to shipping badging and check-in equipment if they decide to go forward with it. Mike says: "We know it's a tough call for event organizers because they're trying to do the right thing by protecting people."

What Should Planners Do Now

While canceling or postponing an event is the right call for some, many organizers are still planning to go on with the show. But that doesn't mean they shouldn't consider making some changes to protect attendees and staff, as well as the reputation of their event. For example, Salesforce recently announced that one of its conferences in Australia, World Tour Sydney Reimagined, would be turned into an all-virtual event to be streamed online for its tens of thousands of attendees.

A quick Google search will provide the basic and most effective steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, such as promoting handwashing and encouraging people to stay home if sick. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also released a guide specifically for events concerning the virus that planners should download and review.

According to Associations Now, some of these tips include:

  • Establish contact with local and national public health authorities as they relate to your event.
  • Provide attendees with information on proper hand hygiene and coughing etiquette and how to access local healthcare if they need it.
  • Have a plan if attendees exhibit symptoms consistent with the virus during the event, including how they will be transported to a treatment facility.
  • Consider providing isolation facilities at the venue for participants who develop symptoms and must wait for a health assessment.

The guide also asks planners of large events to think about crowd density and venue layout, the number of participants coming from countries or areas affected by the COVID-19 outbreak within 14 days of their event, and the age of attendees (since the elderly seem to be more affected )when it comes to making critical safety decisions.

For more information about coronavirus and events, check out our guide to navigating the outbreak.

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This Post was Written by Lauren Mumford

Lauren Mumford has worked at Aventri since 2015 as a content marketing associate. She manages the Aventri blog, social media promotion, the bi-weekly company newsletter, and many other content-related projects. Prior to Aventri, Lauren was in the...

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