COVID-19 is spreading at an increasing rate and whether we think the UK’s response is overblown or understated, as event organisers we are all being forced to review and overhaul plans for conferences and events.  For many of our clients, the emotional upheaval of being asked to consider postponing or cancelling their event is heartbreaking after many months of hard work – this year is going to be a tough one!

The government announcement moved the UK from the ‘contain’ phase to the ‘delay’ phase but although anticipated by many to include restrictions on large gatherings as we’ve seen elsewhere. It didn’t happen. For thousands of sports fans and organisers alike this will bring huge relief, but for many it’s simply delaying the inevitable as it was made very clear that it is highly possible and ‘likely’ that this type of ‘social distancing’ will introduced over the coming weeks – particularly as a peak number of cases is not anticipated for another 10 -14 weeks.

Each event is different, and with fast-moving factors from businesses implementing home working policies meaning available online technologies may not be as readily available, schools closing, and in our case, NHS Trusts rightly re-directing clinical staff into frontline patient-facing roles is significantly impacting speakers and delegates as well.

To help you navigate the choppy waters we’re in, we’ve put together FIVE key factors you should consider when reviewing your event plans:

1. Government advice

Whilst we’re all keeping up to date with government advice on Coronavirus are you aware of the potential, imminent next stages of the government plan. How could they affect your event – even if not immediately, in the coming weeks and months? How far ahead should you postpone?

2. Contracts

Check cancellation clauses in contracts with venues, suppliers and ask for any updated advice or policies as many are keen to minimise the impact on their own businesses and are happy to defer or reduce postponement fees. Talk to them!

3. Event insurance policy

Cancellation/abandonment or postponement clauses invariably exclude ‘communicable diseases’, such as Coronavirus/COVID-19. Since the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, insurers have typically had an exclusion clause to this effect. Pretty much everyone is in the same boat with event insurance and many will be keen to minimise their risk by looking at ways to work around financial impacts.

4. Key stakeholders

Talk to your key stakeholders. Their voices should always be at the heart of your decisions. How do your speakers feel about attending? Are there any policies such as school closures affecting them? Where are they travelling from? Who are the top delegates that you would like in the room? Does their organisation have a policy on home-working or self-isolation yet?

5. Consider virtual options

This is an opportunity to really polish up on delivering virtual meetings and events.  It’s a skill we will all need to master to reduce our impact on the environment. Here’s a neat guide to running virtual meetings from the Harvard Business Review.  If you choose to go virtual, make sure that your attendees have the technology to easily access the channels and software you choose to use.

As organisers of events, conferences and large scale expo features, predominantly in health tech and innovation, Strawberry.London are working hard with clients and other organisers on the best approaches for a number of events whether that’s a 3 day, 6,000 delegate expo and conference or a 150 delegate specialist conference.

In the midst of the Coronavirus epidemic, difficult decisions, client care and support – we all need to remember to look after each other and our teams as we’re just as likely to be affected as everyone else.

To help fellow communications and events professionals navigate the crisis, we are offering free, topline event plan reviews for three organisations. If you would like to be one of them, please email: hello@strawberry.london