coronavirus and events

Coronavirus is now starting to make a huge impact on businesses all over the world. This article was written on the 4th of March 2020, and at the time of writing, we are seeing a lot of our clients consider the future of their events. But is it all a big fuss over nothing? Should we be concerned about our upcoming event calendar? It’s a concern for many, so we’ve taken a deep dive into the virus below. 

What is Coronavirus?

“A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include fever and a cough that may progress to severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions.”

Taken from Government advice which can be found here.

What’s the current information on coronavirus? 

At the time of writing, there have been 51 diagnosed cases of Coronavirus in the UK. The government are updating their advice daily, which can be found here. Coronavirus has been around for a number of weeks now. However, it’s only in the last few days that we have started to see serious effects on the business. Since more cases have been diagnosed, more and more people are considering the future of their events; whether they should continue to run, be postponed, or cancelled altogether. The risk level in the UK has just been raised from low to moderate, which is my personal opinion has not been reported clearly in the press.

How might coronavirus jeopardise your events?

There are a few ways in which we could see coronavirus start to effect events. Firstly, we have seen many companies across Europe inflict a compulsory nonessential travel ban. Obviously, this means that guests might not even be able to get to events, which will affect ticket sales revenue and the success of the event. 

Another issue that we have seen happening recently is stock getting stuck in other countries. For example, let’s look at a fashion show in London. The events team carried out a full set and production build as you would with any event, but the stock was stuck in Italy. Consequently, everything was ready to go but the key product never arrived, so it was cancelled. It’s quite hard to do a fashion show with no fashion! We had similar issues with getting items delivered from Germany for an event a few weeks ago. Therefor I would expect that this will become more and more of an issue going forward.

We are also experiencing the risk of suppliers cancelling their services. If your company has policy which says that the event will go ahead no matter what, supplies don’t necessarily have to abide by that. They can make their own decisions. If they deem the event as being unsafe to proceed, depending on contracts they are within their rights to cancel the event. Of course, this then causes a massive risk to the future of your event should the caterer, venue, production company, or similar cancel.

What can you do about it? 

So what can we actually do about it? In all honesty, the answer is not a lot. Information is changing on a daily basis. Staying up to date with the latest information provided by the government would be our number one tip. There’s a lot of fake news around this subject, so it’s important to make sure you are only getting information from the correct sources. Don’t get caught up in the scaremongering tactics of twitter and the Daily Mail.

Remain Calm.

Secondly, it’s important to remain calm and logical. As event planners, we are naturally organised and we have the skills to deal with something like this. If you studied events in some form, this would be considered as crisis management. If you didn’t study events, like every single person in our team, you have to do your research but it’s all very logical stuff. I also believe it’s important to not be too scared and to act appropriately with the advice given. That means not jumping in too early and cancelling your events. But that also means making sure you have the correct policies and precautions in place. 

It’s going to be important to speak to the key people which the success of your event depends on. We recommend reaching out to all of the key players, your venue, your production company, your catering, and even your key sponsors. Find out what their stance is and ask them if they think the event is likely to go ahead from their side. Try to gauge at what point you would need to get to for them to cancel the event. You’re looking for an answer along the lines of “if the government raised the risk above moderate then the event must be cancelled”.

Speak to your stakeholders

Similarly, is important to start looking at your contracts and working out if the event does end up cancelling would get any money back? Ideally, no one wants to cancel, everyone would like to postpone the event. That totally depends on contractual clauses with some of your suppliers, sponsors and delegates. We recommend obtaining legal advice on the contractual side of things, particularly with your own policies. You should pay particular attention to your force majeure clause which could be of significant relevance here. 

Ultimately you need to remain calm and sensible and make the best decisions at the time with the information that you have available to you. That’s pretty much all you can do in this scenario which is annoying considering as event managers would like to have everything under control. In summary, ask all of your key stakeholders:

  • What precautions are you taking as a business in regards to Coronavirus?
  • At what point will you cancel the event?
  • What is your policy regarding rescheduling or cancelling the event should this become a high-risk situation? Will a refund/transfer of date be provided?

Should your event go ahead?

Unfortunately, we can’t answer this question for you. You need to look at your own policies and speak your own team about whether or not you think that your event is safe to go proceed. You need to consider your type of attendees, for example, some types of companies will be more risk-averse than others. If you work in professional services or lots of attendees are travelling from overseas this could create a higher risk. 

Our bottom line advice would be to keep an eye on what the government is saying and acts accordingly. 

If you would like help with crisis management in regards to your events do get in touch with the team using the form below would be happy to share some of our processes is with you will stop 


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