As the coronavirus pandemic persists, many planners find themselves struggling as events are postponed into the fall. But they're also rapidly adapting to the current situation. Here's a look at some ways to maintain cash flow until live events resume.
Amidst unprecedented event cancellations and an unclear timeline for returning to normalcy, eventprofs around the world are facing financial hardship and loss of business.
Now is a particularly vital time for us to be looking after our mental health, but it's also important for eventprofs to be proactive to be able to keep their business afloat until the pandemic is under control, travel restrictions are lifted, and events are able to resume. And if anyone is still planning to move forward with their in-person event, that option should be taken off the table entirely.
Instead, eventprofs should look to other ways to generate as much revenue as possible and mitigate inevitable losses until things get back to normal — or as close to normal as they're going to get following a global pandemic and possible recession.
Most events are currently cancelled through the end of May, though the recent Olympics postponement announcement signals that events past Q2 of the year will likely be affected. One of the main methods for eventprofs to mitigate losses is to encourage clients to postpone their event instead of canceling it outright, which is what the organizers of the Olympics did and what many others are doing as well.
Postponing events allows planners to minimize potential cancellation expenses and continue to promote the event in the meantime, thereby ensuring a revenue stream down the line. When making the decision to postpone, however, eventprofs should also consider how these mass postponements will play out and how a potential economic downturn may affect their prospects come fall.
If planners do go the cancellation route, it's important to fully understand the costs associated with the decision and what event insurance will or won't cover. Some venues and partners are being more accommodating than others when it comes to cancellation— and even postponement — fees, so it may or may not make sense to cancel depending on the situation.
Pivoting to Virtual
At the first sign of trouble several weeks ago, it became clear that eventprofs would need to take quick action to be able to continue to host events throughout this crisis. In fact, we urged planners over a month ago to start prioritizing live stream offerings for events happening into June.
With the #coronavirus having a massive impact on the meetings industry your live streaming offering should be a priority if your event happens within the next 4 months.
— Julius Solaris (@tojulius) February 11, 2020
Now is the time to start investing in online tools and training teams on how to leverage them. Even if clients have already decided to cancel certain events, it may be worth going back to them with a solid pitch for a virtual option. This seems to be the most widespread solution to the COVID-19 cancellations throughout the industry as more and more high-profile events are going digital.
Adobe's Digital Experience Conference will be fully online this year, and Facebook's F8 Developer Conference will include virtual components to replace the live event. Eventtech companies across the board have been working to add more virtual offerings and support the industry as it moves online. If an event can be made virtual, it's a great way to not only avoid cancellations now, but also to develop important skills that will still be valuable in a post-COVID world.
Adapting Business Models
Some eventprofs have also started looking into ways to adapt their business models, which may mean focusing more on communications and strategic consulting on virtual events. Although certain clients may have an easier time setting up a webinar independently, they still lack the expertise in marketing and engagement that a planner can bring to the table, which is what planners can capitalize on.
Jennifer Glynn of Meeting Encore Ltd. notes that "as a business owner, this is an opportunity to reimagine your business services, work on the marketing plan, and take on other projects that you never get time for."
There have also been resources popping up to help eventprofs offer their unique set of skills to others who may need them during this time — whether directly or indirectly related to event production.
— kikilitalien (@kikilitalien) March 28, 2020
Forging Ahead with Production
For eventprofs managing events in the period of limbo that is the summer, it's still unclear whether they will be affected — although it's looking increasingly likely. However, many are choosing to move forward with the production of these events for the time being, albeit with some additional planning to minimize financial stress.
According to Sean Pedeflous, Creative Director at GDX Studios, the company is still working on events that are scheduled to take place over the summer. He maintains that "stopping production for an activation that may or may not get canceled is not the right move. Our industry needs to be ready to execute amazing events as soon as this virus has cleared."
He also advises that "with a smart and realistic timeline, a conservative and low impact financial schedule can be created during this time. A project’s budget should be front-loaded with expenses on design, development, and production of assets that can be utilized even if the event is canceled" and emphasizes the importance of open communication throughout the planning process.
Focusing on the Future
While not contributing to an immediate and direct stream of revenue per se, planners are capitalizing on this time and staying productive in an effort to prepare themselves and their business for the eventual end of the pandemic.
Let's focus on the comeback, not the set back. Just think what you could achieve after some time resetting, reading, learning, processing, changing and developing 💜
— Juliet Tripp (@JulietTripp_) March 24, 2020
The owner of The Event Ninjas agency in New York, Marisa Flores, is one eventprof making the most of the time: "Besides working with clients on postponing events, I’m spending extra time on business development. Redoing our website, creating a content calendar for marketing, fixing our long-defunct Facebook page, etcetera—all things I’ve put off during busy times. With events canceled through the end of April, there’s no excuse now.”
The New Black Studio, an event agency based on London, shares the outlook of using this time wisely: "I would urge businesses to forward plan now. Have the foresight to look to where we might be in 6, 10, 12 months, and make your plans. People need hope, connection, and enjoyment. Come back from this with an impact."
Although the current situation is less than ideal, eventprofs now have an opportunity to take a step back and strategize for the future, and they should take advantage of it if they can.
The coronavirus pandemic is still going strong and will continue to affect events throughout the year. Now is the time for eventprofs to get creative in their offerings, even if it means stepping outside their comfort zones to continue to deliver events.
On the whole, the industry is coming together to support each other through this challenging time, and its resilience has never been more apparent. Eventprofs who make it through will undoubtedly be stronger on the other side.