Cancel completely or convert to digital? That is the question.
Updated: Apr 12, 2020
The coronavirus has officially reached global pandemic status. Americans are now facing disruptions to their daily lives that have already affected millions of people around the world as governments try to slow the spread of Covid-19. Event organizers and hosts are all asking themselves and their teams: should we cancel our event? Should we reschedule? Should we host on a digital platform?
The answer to this question is somewhat straight forward. As of March 14th, the United States is in an official state of emergency. Some states have banned gatherings larger than 500 people. Several large organizations have shuttered their offices, canceled employee travel, and restricted their
teams from attending events with more than 25 people.
So, yes you should cancel your events in March.
You should also stay abreast of the new. Check out some of the amazing events industry resources dedicated to Covid-19 updates (see bottom of this post for links!). If things aren’t looking up soon, you should probably cancel your April events as well.
Now that you’ve taken the first step and decided you can’t host your in-person event as planned, should you take it digital?
Most events can be delivered digitally, and delivered well! Nowadays you would be hard pressed to find an event that can't be delivered via a digital platform. However, not all events are candidates for the live to digital transition.
If your event is a vehicle for delivering content: a panel discussion, plenary session, workshop, etc. you can absolutely take it to a digital platform without losing any value for your attendees. In most cases, you should take these events digital. Your attendees registered for your event because they want the content you're providing. Transitioning to a digital platform will allow you to show up for your attendees. It will also show your audience that your organization is nimble, adaptable, and able to deliver the benefit of attending your event even in extenuating circumstances. Consider sweetening the pot by offering your registrants the opportunity to invite a colleague to the digital event or apply a portion of their registration fee towards a future event. There are incredible tools out there specifically designed for hosting remote events. Some even have sophisticated networking capabilities! We will be sharing a post on some of our favorite tools soon, so come back!
If your event is networking focused, you can probably take it digital but consider your attendee expectations. If you have already started marketing an in-person networking event and have sold tickets, I would recommend that you postpone the live event and host a digital version during the regularly scheduled time. This will make sure that your attendees don’t feel at all jilted. It isn’t that attendees wouldn’t enjoy that format or even that they wouldn’t sign up for it, but the delivery of a digital event will be very different than the experience they signed up for. Digital networking takes a bit more effort on the attendee's part (until they get the hang of it). There is a learning curve for adapting to new technology and finding what works for them. The key for going digital is making sure that your audience is well-informed, well-prepared, and happy with the change. If they aren’t then a digital event might not be the right solution.
Setting out to host a digital networking event from the start is a bit easier to manage. Be very clear from the outset that your event is digital, communicate clearly with attendees what to expect, and give them tips on how to make the most of their participation. We will be sharing some tips on hosting a successful digital networking event soon!
Good luck to everyone setting out to transition their events to a digital platform! Reach out if you are looking for help or want to bounce ideas off us.
If you do decide to go digital, click here to download our virtual event plan.
UPDATE 3/15/2020: The CDC is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more be canceled through May 10th. For events in late April and early May, this early recommendation is wonderful news. It gives you some time to decide whether or not to take your event digital. Read more here.
Events industry sources for staying on top of Covid-19 updates and news: PCMA Covid-19 What Event Professionals Need to Know, MPI Novel Coronavirus Resources, CDC Community Events, Events Industry Council About Coronavirus