COVID-19 Crisis: A Good Time for Questions

Author: Michelle Russell       

Warren Berger

As they confront the unknown, innovators and creators tend to ask questions like, What can I learn from this situation? and Is there a problem here that I can help solve? Author Warren Berger says we could ask the same questions as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis.


  • During a period of uncertainty, it’s helpful to ask exploratory questions. Instead of, Why is this happening to me?, a more useful question is, How should I be adapting to it?

It seems like all we have right now during the coronavirus pandemic are burning questions, like: When will this end? When will things get back “to normal”? What will that look like? Will I still have a job?

Warren Berger

Warren Berger

This period of uncertainty is actually a great time for other kinds of questions, says Warren Berger, whom I interviewed for Convene several times, after his book A More Beautiful Question was published in 2014 and The Book of Beautiful Questions was published in 2019. The line of questioning that would most benefit us during the COVID-19 crisis, Berger writes in his recent blog post, A Tool for These Uncertain Times, is what “people who invent, create, and explore” tend to be very comfortable asking as “they confront the unknown. They may look at a puzzling situation and ask, What does this mean to me? How should I be reacting or adapting to it? What can I learn from this situation? Is there a problem here that I can help solve? Innovators and creators,” he writes, “tend to thrive in these dynamic circumstances.”

It was the line of questioning we pursued in our recent survey about how event professionals are responding to the crisis, particularly with this question: If you were to think of this pause-on-events period as a chance to reset/rethink/reboot your next event, what would you do differently or how would you start fresh?

We were inspired by the responses to this open-ended question. They ranged from the very practical — spend more time creating crisis/contingency/risk assessment/crisis communication plans and revisiting event insurance, contracts, and room blocks — to using this time as somewhat of a luxury, to start designing an event from scratch. The majority of the responses had to do with making sure that virtual events are part of the plan — and not as a backup but baking online offerings into a year-round program and integrating a hybrid event with a face-to-face event. We’ll be sharing more insights from the survey in the coming days, in addition to executive summaries from the planner responses and the supplier responses.

Berger calls that kind of question a Big Beautiful Question (or BBQ), because it gets you thinking about a goal you want to achieve or a problem you’d like to solve in a “how may I” kind of way. “Write it down or post it,” he writes in his blog. “And start thinking about how you might take action on that BBQ, in small, initial steps.”

There were many who responded to our survey question about rethinking their future events with a simple “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know.” As one respondent said, “It’s too soon for me to figure this out. I feel like our industry became obsolete overnight.”

And that’s okay, Berger writes. “When you ask yourself big, ambitious questions, don’t worry about not having an answer right away. Beautiful questions often don’t have quick and easy answers. You have to spend time with them; and you must, at least temporarily, live with the uncertainty of not having an immediate answer. But time,” he says, “is something many of us have right now — and uncertainty is something we’re all learning to live with.”

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 pandemic and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared now and in the future.

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