An Event Planners Guide to Experiential Marketing Amid COVID-19
Coronavirus is hitting experiential marketing hard. Events around the world are getting cancelled, postponed and sponsors are pulling out. On March 11, The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. So, what does this mean for event planners?
COVID-19 is an event marketing tsunami. In the process of guiding our clients to calmer waters, event organizers are juggling—contingency plans, contract cancellation, fear, financial fallout, rescheduling nightmares and then, there’s the unknown…when will this disaster be over? I don’t know. But what I do know, is we are adaptable. If you are still meeting, precautionary measures can be put in place to mitigate risk and, there are alternative ways to host events.
1. To Cancel, or Not to Cancel Your Event
With our Prime Minister now in voluntary self-isolation, North American sports suspended and Canadians diagnosed with COVID-19 on the rise—more event planners will be grappling with the decision on when it is necessary to cancel or postpone events. On March 10, the Public Health Agency of Canada, released federal guidelines surrounding mass events to assist planners in making an informed decision.
These guidelines include a risk assessment tool. One of the factors planners are urged to consider is ‘the population attending the event.’
- How many people are expected to attend the event?
- Are participants from COVID-19 affected areas?
- Are the attendee’s older adults who are at greater risk of severe disease?
All the above carry a ‘high weight of importance’ when measuring risk. Event planners and public health authorities are to work together on a case-by-case basis to access the situation and make an informed decision. To review the risk assessment tool and the federal guidelines please click here.
2. 7 Health and Safety Tips for Events Amid Outbreak & Moving Forward
Although, there are currently no prohibitions surrounding events given the uncertainty, this may change. Whether your event is a go or postponed, precautions to mitigate risk must be taken. The Public Health guideline suggests the following tactics be implemented:
- Reduce the number of participants or change the venue to prevent crowding;
- Stagger arrivals and departures;
- Provide packaged refreshments instead of a buffet;
- Increase access to handwashing stations;
- Promoting personal protective practices (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, staying home if ill;
- Offering virtual or live-streamed activities; and
- Changing the event program to reduce high risk activities such as those that require physical contact between participants.
Here in Toronto, we are staying positive, follow hashtag #stillmeeting to see what’s going on.
3. Create Online Experiences
For an industry that thrives on in-person experiences and engaging the senses, COVID-19 has challenged event planners to do what we do best. Get creative. Experiment with experiences and provide alternative ways to execute events. To accomplish this, we will need to lean heavily on technology. One strategy is to migrate to a digital platform and host online conferences with multiple touch points for attendees. We are already seeing this happen Adobe, Facebook, Google and Ottawa-based e-commerce Shopify Inc. have all opted for virtual events.
Other mechanisms for creating connections in the online world will also need to be deployed. Some brands such as Uber are already doing a fantastic job of this. As the virus continues to erode at the event industry, we will witness more brands embrace virtual reality and gaming to launch their products online.
In the wake of the coronavirus, to change an event strategy is not easy, and it can be costly. But in the long-term, this forced examination will foster exciting digitization changes in our industry.