There are so many emotions running high in our industry right now. We are feeling the BIG BLOWS of event cancellations. My heart breaks for our industry.

I want to share helpful tools and resources to manage your business and events during this time of uncertainty.

Tighten Up Your Risk Management

I chatted with Kawania “Kay” Wooten, owner of Howerton Wooten Events, on her company’s risk management strategies. Kay has seen her share of event crises in her years of planning corporate events and weddings.

Here is what Kay shared with me:

  1. Get [legal and insurance] advice first. We have been in contact with our insurance agent and attorney on what we can say and shouldn’t say. There are a bunch of organizations offering statements and recommendations to conference planners. One of the sites is the Events Industry Council —
  2. Speak with your insurance agent to see if your client is covered. You may be out of luck for insurance coverage if your plan does not explicitly list epidemics and/or communicable diseases as qualifying force majeure circumstances
  3. Speak with the venue and your vendor partners about the contracts in place. Unless your meeting, wedding or event is taking place in China or Italy, your force majeure (or impossibility) clauses PROBABLY won’t cover your client for COVID-19 yet. HOWEVER, venues, airlines and vendor partners are trying to be empathetic event partners looking to maintain positive relationships.
  4. Figure out what will be affected because of COVID-19. Will their attire and/or equipment be delayed? Could the reduced guest count affect the room block or the food and beverage minimum? If so, these are conversation topics I recommend addressing in advance.
  5. Initiate the discussion with your clients. Let your clients know what steps you have in place to monitor the issue and let them know your recommended game plan if this issue doesn’t turn around by a specific date. For our corporate clients, we are encouraging them to make their decisions to cancel based on specific percentages and not on fear.
  6. Help your clients communicate the game plan. We are helping our conference and wedding clients with their communicating to attendees and guests.
  7. Be mindful of the jokes/memes you post on social media about coronavirus. People (including clients) are looking to us for advice and it may not play well if they see us making light of this situation.
  8. Create a crisis management plan that your entire team will reference prior to and during the event or wedding.”
COVID-19 Coronavirus Event Businesses

Communication Gives Comfort

Are you a little frustrated with the lack of information? The confusing messages? Yes – me too.

Our clients feel the same way.

In being proactive with communication, everyone will feel a lot more secure. By showing that you are on top of things, they’ll value the service you offer. And, they’ll be more willing to work for a postponement (ideal) versus a cancellation (not ideal).

If you haven’t already, communicate with them your protocol going forward. Here is language you are free to share:

  • We are looking into adding sanitizing liquid dispensers at all our events – both at the entries, in bathrooms, and near food.
  • We are speaking with venues, vendors, and rental companies regarding sanitation procedures.
  • We will have options to live stream your event for those that are unable to attend. {thanks Wendy for this tip}
  • We are recommending plated dinners for your event over buffet or family-style meals.
  • We are closely monitoring the US Department of State for travel restrictions.
  • We are adhering to guidelines set by World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control.

You may also want to consider loosening up your cancellation fees to give potential clients an incentive to book you with less risk. (We can learn from other industries, like what airlines are doing.) Or, find alternative payment methods so that they don’t lose as much money upfront.

Prepare Your Business

You may need to rethink your business model for the upcoming 6-12 months. If you haven’t had cancellations yet, you likely will. The economics of our industry is going to no doubt be impacted.

I lived thru the last 2008-2010 recession. The businesses that faired best are the ones who were able to shift their plans going forward.

Some ideas for you:

Need to supplement income? Here are some ideas:

Additional Information

The following articles have been helpful in learning more about how our industry is being impacted:

And here is a way to give back to those SXSW industry colleagues that have already lost income.

Thanks to Kay Wooten for these resources too:

Feeling overwhelmed? Feel free to email me.