Already at the turn of the year, Chinese authorities had informed the World Health Organization (WHO) of a cluster of unexplained cases of pneumonia. Shortly afterwards the pathogen responsible for this outbreak could be identified as a new type of coronavirus. Due to its similarity to the SARS virus, it was given the name SARS-CoV-2. The disease caused by the virus is called Covid-19. The number of infected people is steadily increasing around the globe.
In order to contain the Corona pandemic, numerous events in Europe were cancelled or postponed until well into the summer: from the Olympic Games, the European Football Championship and the Eurovision Song Contest to concerts, festivals and visitor fairs.
In addition, both speakers and visitors refrain from participating in future events or are encouraged to do so by their employers. All in all, the situation is difficult to assess. To make matters worse, event organizers are faced with numerous unresolved liability issues. Even for the most hygienic event, which relies on disinfection and alternative greeting formats, there is no guarantee. Therefore, the most important thing is to take the situation seriously without falling into a panic.
The event industry has been particularly affected by the situation. The virus has hit our industry hard and it will need a long time to recover from the consequences. The good thing is: We are not alone – you are not alone! We are all in this together.
On 13 March 2020 the German organization “Interessengemeinschaft Veranstaltungswirtschaft (IGVW)“ issued an encouraging statement that includes the following sentences:
Tough times call for new ideas. What we need now is determination, inner strength and the willingness to face this crisis. Our industry is known to be flexible.
We will deal with the coronavirus in the same way: We want to use the new vacuum creatively and effectively and work on alternative concepts for your and our own events. Over the next few weeks, we will present you with recommendations, share our experiences (including, but not exclusively, virtual events) and try to come up with ideas that have probably not existed before. In a spirit of partnership and positive cooperation, we are now looking for solutions together with you - our customers, friends and partners.
In times of Covid-19 the advantages of digitalization are obvious. Digitalizing events is no easy task, but it can be a long-term solution that outlasts the crisis itself. Organizers are already relying on live streaming. So perhaps the forced digitalization of the industry will herald a new beginning? Perhaps we need to find ways to organize community feelings and experiences differently?
Learn more about virtual events in our live webinar series:
Event-specific sources, legal information and recommendations can be found here:
If you would like to find out more about the mood in society and the event industry, social media - especially Twitter - can be of interest to you. Just look for #FlattenTheCurve, #Covid_19, #Eventprofs and #Eventprofsunite.
In such a difficult situation, regular and above all open communication with guests, partners and employees is crucial for event organizers. Unfortunately, no one can say exactly how the situation will develop in the coming weeks and months, so go through any scenarios you can think of now. In the latest episode of the German podcast published by MICE Innovation Sessions, crisis manager Steff Berger recommends the FORDEC method – a model of structured decision-making used by NASA. As long as there is no government order regarding your event size or time frame, go through all your options including postponing, canceling and executing your event.
F – Facts: What are the facts? Don’t try to interpret or evaluate the situation. Only those who know their location will reach their destination.
O – Options: After you have written down all the information, think about your possibilities. Don’t limit yourself to the obvious ones.
R – Risks and Benefits: Provide each option with two arrows. Below the left arrow write down the dangers, risks and disadvantages. Below the right arrow add all advantages and opportunities. Then compare the risk/reward ratio. This method provides an overview and prevents risks from being overestimated and opportunities from being overlooked.
D – Decision: Now you have all the information you need. It’s time to make your decision. Remember that brooding leads to valuable time passing without you making any progress.
E – Execution: Your task now is to take prompt action. You know what to do - get started!
C – Check: FORDEC is not about closing your eyes and hoping for the best. Check regularly whether you are still on course and whether the measures you have taken are effective or whether they need to be corrected.
But no matter what the decision is, communicating with existing and new customers and partners and dealing with fear is not easy. Here are five recommendations for you:
The entire event industry is currently facing one question: What happens to my event? In principle, three scenarios are possible:
Certainly, none of those three decisions can be made quickly and easily. Either way, enormous economic damage and the uncertainty as to whether postponement makes sense are at stake. What is clear is that the revenues will not be better than before the Corona crisis.
For organisers and event planners, however, it may be advantageous to set new goals and develop creative solutions. One alternative that is currently being widely used is the switch to online events.
The advantage? Virtual events offer completely new possibilities for organizers who have only held their events offline until now.
1. the basics: picture, sound and length
No matter how enthusiastic you are about your topic - your participants have only a limited attention span. For sessions with a lot of input we recommend a maximum of 45 to 60 minutes. Also make sure that the lighting conditions are suitable. Ideally, your speakers should not sit in front or to the side of a light source. Create a good room atmosphere and remove "disturbing" elements from the background. You can guarantee a "clear voice" with the help of a professional headset. Even better is the use of a USB microphone. In order to prevent update or mail notifications from popping up, all background programs should also be closed.
2. welcoming and briefing the participants
After a greeting at the beginning of your online event, briefly explain the options available to your participants: For example, that they should turn off their sound to avoid background noise, that they can share their screen or webcam, that they can join the chat at any time and so on. Don't forget to present a timetable for your event and discuss its duration, content and objectives.
3. networking works online as well
After their registration, collect information about your participants in order to create networks. Many providers allow you to create custom workspaces (such as Adobe Connect) that can be integrated into a webinar. Initiate a short introduction session and offer your events with some regularity.
4. a monologue in front of the camera? Yawn!
Most software solutions offer whiteboards, chats, surveys or screen sharing. There are also a variety of event apps and features that allow interaction during a webinar. Involve your participants! Let them vote, ask questions and draw around on your screen or whiteboard. This way you can keep your audience's attention at the same time.
5. think about your partners and sponsors
The current situation is not easy for your current partners and sponsors either. Try to integrate them further. The caterer may be able to contribute snacks via a delivery service, you can boost the voucher sales of your service providers or invite partners as speakers. For locations or companies, virtual tours are available and digital goodie bags (from Fanomena Events, for example) continue to bring your stakeholders reach. In this way you lay the foundation for a successful post-covid period.
Smaller virtual meetings and webinars had already been established before Covid-19. They facilitate collaboration, offer more personal exchange than a phone call and make teamwork in the home office possible. We have summarized five of the most popular tools for you.
Cisco Webex Meetings
The meeting solution from Cisco is available as a free version for personal needs. It includes the exchange for up to 100 participants and an unlimited number of meetings for up to 24 hours. For teams and business users, Cisco Webex is currently free of charge for the first month. The starter package is currently available for 12.85 Euro per month. Participants must download the application before they can take part in the online meeting.
A free classic among the tools for virtual meetings, seminars and network events is Zoom. The basic version already includes extensive services for up to 100 people and group meetings with a maximum duration of 40 minutes. In the gallery view, your participants can also view up to 25 video feeds simultaneously. Subscriptions start at a monthly price of 13.99 euros per presenter. You either download the app or participate via web browser, whereby the app offers some more features.
join.me is another virtual meeting service from LogMeIn. The paid LITE version, starting at 9 euros per month, allows five participants - but without the video transmission. Participants dial in either over the Internet or over their phone. The organizer of the virtual meeting can customize the link to the meeting as well as the waiting background.
The Californian company BlueJeans Network, offers four different online event solutions. One of these is BlueJeans Meetings, a meeting platform that specializes in cloud-based video communication. Here you can easily conduct or participate in an audio, video or web conference - from any device and from any location. The company offers three different packages, starting at $9 per host and month.
For the implementation of virtual conferences and trade fairs, we recommend EXPO-IP
With its modular solution for virtual trade fairs and events, EXPO-IP is a provider with which you can bring your event into the digital world very quickly. The backend is similar to WordPress and can integrate many other digital services, such as chat tools and the webinar providers presented above. In addition, as the organiser of EXPO-IP, you also receive five templates for the stand, the exterior, the lobby, the conference room or other trade fair furniture. EXPO-IP also organises virtual trade fairs itself and thus knows its own tool from the user's perspective.
We are already dealing with these circumstances for a while now. The development of the situation is still dynamic though. Assessments of experts and authorities change frequently. This means you must think dynamically as well. We are all going through an emotional phase - but communication should not be neglected. Take the emotions of your partners, sponsors and customers seriously and continue to address them openly. Admit ignorance and uncertainty to yourself and to others. Maybe this difficult time forces us to deal with things we’ve long put off or helps us to develop new solutions. Maybe the crisis will make us and the event industry even stronger in the end. If we let it.