We've written quite a bit about virtual events and webinars. With our new COVID reality, we thought it was an important topic to revisit.
While virtual and online events may be the only option in the short term, event organizers can benefit from a virtual mindset when they approach all events going forward. Integrating a plan to host your event virtually if circumstances demand it should be a mandatory part of the overall planning process. Organizers should have the technology in place so they can easily "turn it on" when needed. Even if the event does go off as planned, live and in-person, consider adding online aspects to increase engagement. The option to create streaming video should become an essential event utility like electricity or WiFi.
While social distancing may have accelerated the acceptance of online events, webinars, in particular, are not a new concept in the federal market. Market Connections' Federal Media & Marketing Study (FMMS) found that three-quarters of federal workers reported watching live webinars during the workday and at least one in five were watching recorded webinars on their own time (weeknights and weekends). Webinars tend to be mainly one-way communication - with a speaker presenting and time for questions at the end. Frequently, the Q&A is not done "live," rather questions are gathered via messaging, vetted, and asked by the host. However, as our collective comfort with platforms like Zoom, WebEx, and Skype grow, future webinars could become more interactive, allowing for video participation and interaction between speakers and participants.
The Coronavirus has made many organizations take a hard look at how and if they should proceed with events in the coming months. Decisions made in response to this virus should be informed by security and contingency best practices and should serve to inform planners in the future.
Best practices include:
- Hygiene - Have antibacterial sanitizers available throughout your event venue. Ensure that bathrooms are stocked with anti-bacterial soap. Confirm with caterers how they stock buffets to reduce the risk of people grabbing for food with hands instead of utensils.
- Have a Plan B - Consider how you can take the show virtual if needed. Look into virtual event and webcast technologies in advance of an issue arising to provide an alternate option should an event have to be canceled or postponed.
- Review Contracts - Look carefully at cancellation clauses so you understand what falls into each vendor's (including insurance provider's) definition of "force majeure." This ensures that you fully understand the reimbursement policies when making cancellation decisions.
- Plug into the Community - Tune in to what is happening in the city/community where you are holding the event. It's critical to know what is going on in the community so you can plan accordingly. For example, if there has there been a rash of recent protests or a spike in crime, you may want to increase security at your venue. In the case of a public health issue, you'll know what is actually happening on the ground in terms of infections and general reactions so you can inform attendees and plan accordingly.
We've been in touch with many of our partners and have pulled together this list of events that have been canceled, postponed or rescheduled due to health concerns.
We'd love to hear from you. How have precautions around the Coronavirus impacted your event planning? Share your stories in the comments. For more government events worldwide, visit GovEvents.
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