Coronavirus: 4 Strategic Considerations for Event Professionals

Author: Barbara Palmer       


When developments like the coronavirus outbreak occur, MCI makes business decisions and recommendations by considering four areas—including the impact of a reduced number of attendees or adding a virtual element to the event. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

When it comes to preparing for how to navigate developments such as the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on events, there really is no one approach that fits every situation, Sylvia André, vice president for marketing and communications for MCI, a Geneva, Switzerland-based global events and management company with offices in more than 30 countries, told Convene by email.


Sylvia André

“Challenges resulting from the coronavirus outbreak differ from client to client due to the nature of their industry, location, and stakeholders that they are needing to bring together. Every situation merits careful individual consideration.”

In general, however, MCI makes business decisions and recommendations during uncertain times by considering four areas, André said.

  1. Safety and well-being. “Our priority is people — our clients, their people, our own talent, and our partners that we work with. Their safety and wellbeing always come first,” she wrote. When MCI formulates recommendations, “we very much rely on official sources (World Health Organization, and governmental authorities, for example),” she wrote, “as they are best informed with the factual data.”
  1. Business impact. Apart from the considerations around the wellbeing of the people, “we also need to think of the business impact of any decisions,” André wrote. “This typically focuses around what happens if the event is canceled — will the social, scientific, or economic impact be acceptable? What happens if we continue with the event and participation is reduced — will this have an impact greater than canceling? What alternatives could be considered — change of destination, date, or including a virtual element?”
  1. On-site risks. Risks are typically a combination of “severity of impact” vs. “likelihood of different scenarios,” André noted. “We use a risk-assessment matrix to plot, identify, and rank risks to determine and decide on appropriate responses,” she added. “In times of heightened risks, we establish a ‘quick response’ team.”
  1. Communications. Ultimately, it’s essential for event providers and clients to work closely together, André said. “This ensures that the broad view and all possible issues and scenarios can be considered and addressed. Continued communication with all stakeholders is also a core part of the approach to ensure people have regular updates and are aware of who to contact in case of questions.”

Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.

What Events Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19

PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the outbreak and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared.

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