Has the Coronavirus outbreak affected any of your upcoming events and if so, what are you doing to help your clients through this time?

Has the Coronavirus outbreak affected any of your upcoming events and if so, what are you doing to help your clients through this time?
The events industry is taking a big hit from the Coronavirus outbreak. Event profs share their real-time challenges and advice.

Stay in touch with your guests so that they know you are not avoiding the topic and instead try to heed the warnings of your local health authorities.

If you’re like many Americans, the spread of COVID-19 is a growing concern for you, your family and any upcoming events you are hosting or attending. As with any serious illness that can be spread through contact with other people, health and safety come first. What does everyone hosting a party need to know about the effects of COVID-19 on events, and what can you do to communicate with your guests?

The Effects of COVID-19 on Events and Parties
We are reading about countries closing their borders, sports teams playing to empty stands, conferences being canceled and travel warnings. Many workplaces have told their employees not to travel. One notable event canceled due to COVID-19 is South by Southwest or SXSW. This massive festival brings thousands of music-lovers to the area for concerts, plenty of food and tons of fun. It also provides a huge economic boost to businesses and employees in the Austin, Texas area.

The silver screen is taking hits too, as the premiere of the newest James Bond movie was moved from March 31st to November. As the virus spreads, you can expect to see more large events canceled to limit the possibility of transmission and keep individuals with the virus, who may not be showing symptoms yet, from coming into contact with others.

What Should You Do?
Some of our social clients are considering postponing their events. They are reporting that the older out of town guests are choosing to stay home. Currently, most health departments are advising people over the age of 60 or 40 and up with high-risk conditions to avoid air travel. Stay in touch with your guests so that they know you are not avoiding the topic and instead try to heed the warnings of your local health authorities.

If you are hosting an event over the next few weeks or couple of months, it would be wise to think about your contingency plan options now in the event that you need to use them. Reach out to your vendors to find out what their cancellation or postponement policies are. Do not feel pressured to cancel your event if your local public health department or venue is not recommending doing so. For a small event, like a local birthday party with a dozen attendees, that might not impact your decision to hold it. However, for a destination wedding or celebration with guests traveling to you from across the country, this should be considered.

Read the full blog post here:  THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON EVENTS AND PARTIES

"Stay in touch with your guests so that they know you are not avoiding the topic and instead try to heed the warnings of your local health authorities." @hidartist Click to Tweet

Heidi Hiller

Owner | Creative Director

Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland

It is essential to factor in event and contingency planning.

During the span of my event career, I haven’t seen anything affect our industry like Coronavirus. At first, it seemed like a passing bug, but it quickly became a global threat that’s impossible to ignore. With that in mind, it is essential to factor in event and contingency planning. Now, I don’t claim to be an expert, nor do I have all the answers to Coronavirus implications – and I’m not going to pretend like I do. I will leave that to the experts. In addition, I don’t think there is a “set plan” or template you can adhere to for every event. Each event is different and loaded with a number of variables and moving parts, so all we can do is start coming up with a basic framework.

With that said, my simple contribution is a checklist of some factors to consider when coming up with your own unique contingency plan for dealing with Coronavirus. Good luck and stay safe everyone!

Factors to Consider:

  • Current federal and local laws around events/gatherings and Coronavirus
  • The current state of the virus in your country, region, and city
  • Date of the event
  • Number and density of guests
  • International, national, or local guests
  • Outdoor or indoor
  • Insurance policies and conditions
  • Coronavirus policies on all event information (including refunds and potential back-up dates)
  • Constant communication with stakeholders before, during, and after the event
  • Supplier and venue payments already made, upcoming deposits, and refunds available
  • Thorough on-site hygiene and cleanliness plan

I’m certain I’ve missed a bunch of other important factors, but this should be a good start for most… Please feel free to add your own list in the comments! Thank you.

"It is essential to factor in event and contingency planning." @brinkevents Click to Tweet

Aidan Henry

Owner & Creative Director

Brink Events, Victoria, BC

It is a very difficult situation, and at the moment, all we can do is to be the best “advocate” for our clients.

Coronavirus has affected our business in a major way. All events have been postponed, except for one which is in May. All other events have been postponed to 2021.

Of course, destination weddings have been impacted severely. One of the weddings that was to be in June of this year has just been postponed to June of 2021. This decision was made this Monday, and just before Italy announced that the entire country is on lockdown.

I have been working on assisting clients by providing as much information – in addition to readily available information. I have been in close touch with Italy, through professional and personal connections.

As a rule, deposits are not refunded if events are postponed to one year later. Due to my close relationships with Italian industry professionals, I was able to have them agree to carry the deposit over to next year’s date.

It is a very difficult situation, and at the moment, all we can do is to be the best “advocate” for our clients. No one is happy about having to postpone their wedding – it is an emotional decision and requires some TLC.

Weddings should be fabulous, memorable, and joyous occasions but they also need to be safe and stress-free. If a change of date can provide this outcome then don’t worry so much change the date, and look forward to a fabulous event!

"It is a very difficult situation, and at the moment, all we can do is to be the best “advocate” for our clients." @cristinaverger Click to Tweet

Cristina Verger

Founder and Principal

Cristina Verger Event Planning & Production, New York City, NY

Our team has...worked with preferred partners and local venues to produce helpful communications for clients to share with attending guests.

Fortunately, two (2) small, private events have been delayed until Q3 of 2020, out of an abundance of caution. Earlier this month, our team proactively canceled upcoming international travel and are in the process of examining Q2 domestic travel for planned events. Sadly, we have recently witnessed the cancellation of larger events in the Chicagoland area with one of our favorites, The Chicago Flower and Garden Show®️.

Our team has also worked with preferred partners and local venues to produce helpful communications for clients to share with attending guests.

Encouragements include:

• Wash hands frequently. Use a paper towel to dry.
• Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing with a tissue. Dispose of the tissue properly.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
• Practice social distancing and avoid close contact with people who are ill.
• Stay home when you’re feeling ill.

We stay inspired by the words of Kahlil Gibran, our favorite Lebanese poet, artist, novelist and philosophical essayist in that, “The appearance of things changes according to the emotions; and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves.”

See the magic. Embrace the unknown. 🙏

"Our team has...worked with preferred partners and local venues to produce helpful communications for clients to share with attending guests." Click to Tweet

Jeff Hughes

Chief Experience Officer

the huestudio + company, Mt. Prospect, IL

A small provision we added was hand sanitizer on every table, desk, and in all breakout rooms. It must have been appreciated because over two dozen bottles were used.

I just did a corporate conference last week where the company brought in 120 of their independent contractors for an educational conference. This conference obviously involved many months of planning, and the planning was mostly complete by the time the outbreak began.

We had about fifteen guests drop out, for various reasons, only two actually cited the virus as their reasons. We did, however, experience canceled flights, both arrivals and departures, which caused some inconvenience, not only for the guests, but for our planned airport pick-up shuttles. We had to do some shifting and rearranging.

Another unplanned, but small provision we added was hand sanitizer on every table, desk, and in all breakout rooms. It must have been appreciated because over two dozen bottles were used.

Had this conference been two weeks later, I believe we would have seen many more drop-outs due to the virus. My client’s company footed the bill for all expenses for these attendees, so that would have been a bit hit for them. I fear what the industry will witness in upcoming weeks.

"A small provision we added was hand sanitizer on every table, desk, and in all breakout rooms. It must have been appreciated because over two dozen bottles were used." @rowellevents Click to Tweet

Jackie Rowell

Owner | Creative Director

Jackie Rowell Events, Birmingham, AL

We believe the best thing we can do at this point is to be an advocate for our clients to help them stay informed, and communicate with their audience!

The Coronavirus has had an immediate impact on our upcoming and future events. The majority of our future events and inquiries are being put on hold, our upcoming events that are still moving forward are now taking a financial hit due to reduced headcounts, and we expect to see more cancelation requests while the outbreak remains active. While this is a very unsettling situation for us and our clients, we are doing our very best to keep our clients informed and helping them in their decision making of how to handle their event. We are also working closely with their vendors to understand what options are available to them regarding cancelations and reschedules, and the great news is that a lot of vendors have been extremely understanding and flexible!

We are also working closely with our legal team to understand what measures we can take to better protect our clients and our businesses in the future. One other area that our clients have been very grateful for is our assistance with communication. We are assisting them with drafting and sending communications to their guests and attendees to inform them of the plan for their future events, and precautions we are taking for events that are taking place.

We believe the best thing we can do at this point is to be an advocate for our clients to help them stay informed, and communicate with their audience!

"We believe the best thing we can do at this point is to be an advocate for our clients to help them stay informed, and communicate with their audience!" Click to Tweet
Sarah Nickens

Sarah Nickens

Owner/Lead Planner

SG3 Events, Clarksburg, MD

We are trying to remind our clients that unless their events have international travelers, there is no reason to cancel at this point.

Coronavirus is affecting the global economy… our industry is not invincible and we will all be affected in the short term like many other industries.

With that said, we are trying to remind our clients that unless their events have international travelers, there is no reason to cancel at this point. Fear is escalating this situation worldwide and giving in simply feeds the fear.

"We are trying to remind our clients that unless their events have international travelers, there is no reason to cancel at this point." @Total_ca Click to Tweet

Lorne Levitt

CEO / Lead Event Designer

Total Events, Montreal, Quebec

I’m telling clients when their final headcount is due and having them send out a reminder to guests that if they choose to cancel their attendance, it would be appreciated that it is communicated before that date.

The Coronavirus is affecting guest counts for weddings in the US and abroad. Parties and events will still go on, but they might have a slightly lower headcount due to high-risk guests choosing not to attend. I’m telling clients when their final headcount is due and having them send out a reminder to guests that if they choose to cancel their attendance, it would be appreciated that it is communicated before that date.

Also, some brides may be concerned about products, such as bridesmaid dresses, being shipped on time. Very few of my clients order dresses that are produced in China, but it’s wise to check with the bride to see if the wedding parties, in upcoming months, have already received their formalwear or to check on their origin location and if there will be any disruption in delivery.

"I’m telling clients when their final headcount is due and having them send out a reminder to guests that if they choose to cancel their attendance, it would be appreciated that it is communicated before that date." Click to Tweet

Megan Estrada

Owner & Principal Event Planner

North Shore Weddings & Events, Winnetka, IL

I am getting questions from clients regarding whether or not they should cancel....So, if they are concerned, they should postpone their event, but not cancel, to avoid losing all monies paid.

I am getting questions from clients regarding whether or not they should cancel, especially if their wedding is not too far off. It is important for wedding couples to know that wedding insurance does not cover global pandemics, such as the coronavirus. So, if they are concerned, they should postpone their event, but not cancel, to avoid losing all monies paid. With postponement, they will most likely lose their deposits. This may apply to the venue, catering, and other services that need to be booked well in advance. But since, globally, we are in such a unique set of circumstances, I recommend contacting each vendor and see what can be negotiated.

And as the situation will continue to change, it is a good idea to keep up on what airlines are doing in terms of canceling or limiting flights to or from certain areas, especially Italy as of right now.

"I am getting questions from clients regarding whether or not they should cancel....So, if they are concerned, they should postpone their event, but not cancel, to avoid losing all monies paid." Click to Tweet

Rene Kraus

Owner/Chief Event Officer

Fete Perfection, Minneapolis, MN

We have a corporate client in San Francisco and had an event planned for 350 guests in late April but it has been postponed due to Covid-19.

We have a corporate client in San Francisco and had an event planned for 350 guests in late April but it has been postponed due to Covid-19. We have put the entire event on hold, with a tentative summer date, but have paused all planning to see what happens with the spread or containment of it. The client did not want to take the risk of hosting a large gathering in such sensitive times, I totally understand and agree.

We are supporting them by remaining in a holding pattern on our end and keeping all vendors informed and on the same page.

"We have a corporate client in San Francisco and had an event planned for 350 guests in late April but it has been postponed due to Covid-19." @JoveMeyer Click to Tweet

Jove Meyer

Owner | Creative Director

Jove Meyer Events, Brooklyn, NY

In addition to extra sanitation at venues, we suggest guests be vigilant in washing their hands and traveling smartly.

Luckily we have not been impacted with any cancellations due to the virus. Given we are a destination wedding location, we do have some couples concerned about guests traveling and we recommend that they follow the CDC guidelines.

In addition to extra sanitation at venues, we suggest guests be vigilant in washing their hands and traveling smartly.

"In addition to extra sanitation at venues, we suggest guests be vigilant in washing their hands and traveling smartly." Click to Tweet

Francesca DiSalvo Follmer

Owner

Pure Luxe Bride, Charleston, SC

During this time we are working closely with our clients to find an alternative date for their events in the future, as well as to recover some of the money that is already spent...

As a matter of fact, yes, Coronavirus has made us cancel a couple of events here in Victoria BC and in Vancouver BC because we always put our clients’ and our team’s safety first.

During this time we are working closely with our clients to find an alternative date for their events in the future, as well as to recover some of the money that is already spent; things such as negotiating with the venue and caterers, graphic design and promotional ads, etc.

"During this time we are working closely with our clients to find an alternative date for their events in the future, as well as to recover some of the money that is already spent..." Click to Tweet

Sam H.

Lead Planner/ Owner

Full of Life Events, Victoria, British Columbia

I have offered a complimentary 45-minute, 1-1 session with any event profs who need some strategy direction, business advice, or overall marketing assistance.

I have had a small handful of events including board meetings, a client appreciation brunch, pop-up shop and ribbon-cutting ceremony & reception that have all decided to be postponed. I am very key with the messaging that they are postponed, but not canceled. At times like this, when we face an unknown number of weeks/months of social distancing, we need something to look forward to.

These events WILL happen, just not now. I also think this is key to keeping our audiences engaged with each brand while looking out for the public health, which is paramount right now.

Rather than my own events though, I am more concerned by the state of the event industry as a whole. I am in a very fortunate position where I have built a business that is both virtual and diversified enough with offerings that I continue to have clients coming to me from various industries that are not yet affected by this.

Event companies are taking such a hard hit, and that breaks my heart. I do not have millions of dollars to dole out to all of my favorite vendors, planners & venues to recoup the losses they are currently experiencing. What I do have (as Liam Niesen said it best) is a “very particular set of skills.” In this case, my skills are those of marketing, sales, business operations, and public relations.

To that end, I have offered a complimentary 45-minute, 1-1 session with any event profs who need some strategy direction, business advice, or overall marketing assistance. From website updates and graphic design work to ad setup and overall task list on what they should be doing now – if I can do it in the time allotted, they will get it. I realize this won’t save the industry, but maybe it’ll help a few companies save themselves and that is totally worth the time and extra effort on top of my other paying clients.

"I have offered a complimentary 45-minute, 1-1 session with any event profs who need some strategy direction, business advice, or overall marketing assistance." Click to Tweet

Channing Muller

Chief Marketing Consultant

DCM Communications, Chattanooga, TN

We are looking at new reception spaces if necessary...and watching the news diligently in hopes of a timeline about when things may head back to normal and we can begin to start with the replanning.

(Initially) I didn’t have anyone cancel an event but I do have a party less than 30 days out that will most likely be impacted.

What I am encouraging clients to do is revisit their guest list. Maybe look to encourage guests that are from out of town, not to make the trip. Try and reduce the numbers if at all possible to try and get to a smaller crowd. I am revisiting dinner or meal service to remove the buffet element at this time. One caterer in my area, Tiwanna Williams of PearlFlower Catering had the cutest idea of a “deconstructed lunch box” where the items are individually wrapped but still displayed similar to a buffet so that people are only touching what’s theirs while still allowing the speed of a buffet.

Here I am now 8 days later and the entire landscape has changed!

I have had one client look to cancel. She’s gearing herself up for a fight from the venue for a full refund but I don’t think they will fight it.

I have had all of my May Weddings postpone due to the ban on weddings in the State. We are looking at new reception spaces if necessary (there is one without availability until 2022) and watching the news diligently in hopes of a timeline about when things may head back to normal and we can begin to start with the replanning.

Most of my clients have been in more than decent spirits about it, sad of course but that’s to be expected. I have asked couples to:
– not order items from overseas (favors, cake toppers, etc.)
– revisit our options closer to the dates where we need to send invitations to determine if their wedding has to be postponed
– talk to their insurance company about event insurance
– stay calm and keep the family chatter regarding the wedding plans to the bare minimum (the family members will heighten the stress with unwelcomed questions and suggestions)

"We are looking at new reception spaces if necessary...and watching the news diligently in hopes of a timeline about when things may head back to normal and we can begin to start with the replanning." @ckevents1 Click to Tweet

Covesa Gragg

Founder and CEO

Covesa Kelly Events, Cleveland, OH

For now, our focus is on keeping them up to date and to support them as much as we can, which includes being ready to execute in whatever way we can when they are ready.

This has had a huge impact on our events and how we are now approaching business for these next few months. Thankfully we had a very busy January and February so our business has had a solid influx of revenue that should help get us through this month and now we hope for April. When we first heard, some of our events in March got postponed to later this year, others just canceled.

Now though, the conversations have changed and more and more clients want to just cancel, which is unfortunate and we hope the balance between postponing and cancelling will be more towards postponing. (We have a lot of European clients who are unsure when they’ll be able to travel to the US.)

For now, our focus is on keeping them up to date and to support them as much as we can, which includes being ready to execute in whatever way we can when they are ready. Events are usually part of their marketing budget, but until they get those sales back up, that budget won’t be back for us. When it does, we’ll be ready for them.

"For now, our focus is on keeping them up to date and to support them as much as we can, which includes being ready to execute in whatever way we can when they are ready." Click to Tweet

Valerie Bihet

Director

VIBE, Miami, FL