The Impact of COVID-19 on the Events Industry

Blog Post
April 27, 2020

For the past few months, we have all been flooded with news and updates on the coronavirus outbreak, which unfortunately is still an ongoing public health emergency of international concern.

We have all felt the initial impact it had on our daily lives, and I won’t get into how it will influence the global economy in this article. What I will do is analyze the impact it has on the events industry. For that, I will briefly discuss how this sector has been affected and, more extensively, what the event organizers are doing to manage the situation.

The World Health Organization is trying as much as possible to inform the public of all the measures one must take, and we’re really proud to see companies respond so fast.

The mere cancellation of events is already starting to have negative effects on all the major industries—hospitality, travel and restaurant sectors being just some of the affected ones.

According to the Events Industry Council and Oxford Economics, the global business events industry was estimated in 2017 to have generated a total of $2.5 trillion worth of business sales. In addition, it has enriched the global GDP with $1.5 trillion. This field alone was responsible for the employment of 26 million people throughout the globe. But remember, this was three years ago. Imagine how much the industry has grown since then, and what the total loss should be in 2020.

How the event organizers are handling the situation

 

1. Event cancellations and postponements


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Given what was happening in the red zones, the world took notice of the situation and tried to implement some measures to guarantee everyone’s safety. For this reason, many conferences have been postponed or even canceled. This isn’t happening only in the red zones, but outside of the currently affected areas too.

According to Joel Crouch, vice president of ticketing and events site Eventbrite, “most planned events had to be postponed or canceled, and it puts many event creators in a tough financial situation. On top of having to pay suppliers, venues, artists, etc. they are now facing refund requests from attendees for canceled events.”

A troubling fact is that around 70% of companies stated that their conferences were not covered by insurance in the event of cancellation, which would explain why so many are choosing to postpone instead of canceling them.

Here’s just a short list:

  • Adobe Summit: transformed from an in-person event to an online-only event.
  • Black Hat Asia: postponed until September 29 – October 2.
  • Facebook F8canceled.
  • Facebook Global Marketing Summit: canceled.
  • Game Developers Conferencepostponed to summer 2020.
  • Google News Initiative Summit: canceled.
  • Mobile World Congress: canceled.
  • Geneva International Auto Show: canceled.


2. Event relocation


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If an event could not be canceled due to various reasons, some event organizers decided that the best solution would be to change its location, similarly to what the PGA Tour did when they decided to move a tournament from China to Indonesia over COVID-19 fears. Of course, this is not ideal, but it’s a measure one can take to avoid cancelling an event. Nevertheless, this comes with its own challenges, as many people might choose to cancel their participation.

As an organizer, you also need to consider if the new location is far enough from the affected area, but still easy to access. And, even though right now the area where you want to move the event is relatively safe, don’t forget that it is quite likely for that region to be affected too, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

 

3. Digitalization of the event


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Each organizer should make the participants’ safety their main priority. If canceling or relocating an event is not an option, well, then the best alternative would be to digitalize it. Even though this cannot apply to every event, it is a solution that many conference organizers can and should take into consideration. It’s better to work on it now and make it a reality, than having to cancel the event and receive people’s backlash.

Not only this, but the digital medium offers the organizers the possibility to still hold the event in so many different ways. So, in what concerns the options, it all depends on the nature of your event. You can go for live streaming: YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram allow you to do just that. Not only this, but they also push notifications to your social media account. You can also choose to use webinars, which are incredibly useful, as they are a great way to deliver value, position yourself as an expert in your field, reach thousands of people all over the world and ultimately build new relationships for your business.

 

Conclusion

We’ve heard this quite a lot lately, but the best thing we can do right now is to adapt. The only constant in life is change, and the situation we are currently going through definitely proves the rule. So, if you are an event organizer or a company that planned to be part of a conference, there are many options for you to consider. And if you’re simply someone who just wanted to attend their favorite annual event, keep an eye out for updates online or reach out to their support teams.

Whether you choose to cancel, postpone, relocate or simply change your event’s format and go for an online live presentation, remember, this is not the end of it, as there are many other ways for us to move forward.

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