How to create the best contingency plan to minimize COVID-19 disruptions

Coronavirus is causing major business events and conferences to be canceled or postponed, which can have serious impacts on the host. Here’s how to prepare your team.

The novel coronavirus has forced many organizations worldwide to cancel or postpone major events and conferences. These changes impact businesses significantly, especially when it comes to budgeting and marketing plans. Contingency plans, however, can help mitigate the impact of these disruptions, according to Gartner research released on Tuesday. 

“Due to the uncertainty surrounding the current event and travel environment, contingency plans are necessary for the foreseeable future,” said Christy Uher Ferguson, senior research director at Gartner, in the release. 

“Organizations with these plans in place are less likely to experience disruptions to their brand awareness, demand generation and product launch efforts, even if strategic events are canceled or postponed,” Ferguson added.

SEE: How to use Zoom: 14 tips and tricks (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The CDC recommends the public cancel events for groups of 10 people or more, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Because of this, big-name events including Mobile World Congress Barcelona, E3, Facebook F8, and SXSW have been canceled; Dell World, Microsoft Build, and Apple WWDC have been moved to online-only; and Gartner Data & Analytic Summit, Enterprise Connect, and Kaspersky’s Security Analyst Summit have been postponed.  

O’Reilly Media decided to not only cancel all future in-person conferences, but to also close the entire Events division of its business, given that the public is uncertain when COVID-19 will end its tear. 

Clearly, the disruptions caused by coronavirus have significant effects on business. The Gartner 2019 Product Marketing Benchmarks Survey found that tech and service providers spend an average of 11% of their marketing budget on third-party trade shows; hosted events account for 6% of tech and service providers’ marketing budgets on average, which means canceling those shows are a big deal. 

Hosting organizations must be ready, especially in the current coronavirus crisis, to alter marketing strategies or adjust its budget due to an event cancellation or postponement, according to Gartner

Setting up a contingency plan 

Forming a contingency plan is one of the best ways businesses can soften the blow of these disruptions, Gartner found. 

The key to a solid contingency plan is communication. Reaching out to attendees and exhibitors early is critical, particularly in regards to the possibility of travel restrictions and attendance, according to Gartner.

Communicating with existing registrants is also important. Hosts should offer flexibility with registrations and especially work with IT to build an appropriate tech stack that could allow for the option of a virtual event. 

To effectively run a teleconference, TechRepublic’s Matt Heusser recommended setting goals and using data to organize the event. Additionally, giving attendees something to do during sessions can help keep them engaged, as the online event experience isn’t as interactive as an in-person conference. 

For more, check out How to plan for a productive and professional telemeeting on TechRepublic.

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