The impact of Coronavirus on the events industry


We’re all now witnessing the effect of the spread of COVID-19 virus (better known as Coronavirus) on the global economy and businesses all around the world. The first case was discovered in China on Dec 31st, 2019 and since then, in less than 3 months, airlines are adjusting schedules and route capacities, factories are shutting down, local and global events are being cancelled or postponed, and even film releases are postponed!

In light of all of this, we’ve witnessed several events – whom we are working closely with – being postponed or cancelled, while other events are still taking place. I’ve spoken to many event organizers who are in crisis meetings everyday trying to figure out the next steps.

The Event Industry Council (EIC) presented a webinar on Coronavirus and factors for informed decision-making. The conversation centered on how, in a time of uncertainty about the coronavirus, organizers should approach decisions about whether or not to postpone or cancel an event — keeping your participants’ health and well-being top of mind, while also not forgetting “the pain your industry partners are going through” – said Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC (International Association of Conference Centres).

The question that is on everyone’s mind is:

What is the impact of this virus spread on the industry and how can we mitigate the risk and plan accordingly?

Materials and logistics

With the closure of several factories in China and the limitation of transit from mainland China to the rest of the world there’s a risk of failing to procure the necessary material for setting up the event. This can include (and not limited to): badges, plastic covers, lanyards, and booth production material and papers.

It is advised that event organizers and production houses to:

  • Seek local suppliers;
  • Procure and store additional stock of material;
  • Re-use or design generic stands, rollups, badges, or lanyards that can be used in multiple events;
  • Better off, replace some of the materials with technology (more on that below).

Precautionary measures to reduce the spread of Coronavirus

This video from WHO illustrates some measures every individual can partake to reduce and/or eliminate the spread of the virus.

It is wise that event organizers, who are still organizing events, to provide the following:

  • Alcohol based hand drops/gels all over the venue;
  • Sanitize and clean all equipment used by public speakers and registration staff (microphones, tablets, scanners, etc…) if the equipment are to be reused;
  • Volunteers and cleaners who continue to clean surfaces all day long;
  • Disposable face masks.

Use of technology

Another alternative for hosting a physical event is adopting the use of live streaming technology and webinars – especially for educational driven conferences. For years many people have accustomed themselves to attending live conferences such as Apple’s Special Events and WDCs, Google IO, E3 conferences or the Oscars events from home and watching them on their preferred interactive streaming platform. It is necessary for event organizers to start adopting this technology and keep an open communication to their audiences to continue to keep the business going.

Streaming may not suit B2B events and expositions, so in that case event organizers must weigh-in the option of postponing the event or holding on to it, taking into consideration all the necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of participating exhibitors, speakers, delegates and attendees while using technology, such as:

  • Online registration and digital badges;
  • Digital/paperless agenda and event app
  • Smart/digital business match-making, networking, lead retrieval and digital business cards;
  • Streaming live workshops and conference elements of the event.

It is without a doubt a tough time for business and economies all around the globe and everyone is monitoring and being mindful about the situation, but with every challenge comes opportunity and I personally believe that people and businesses will find innovative ways to overcome those challenges. It is our human nature to thrive and rise above the challenge.

Stay safe. Stay blessed.

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