The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing governments around the world to call for increased levels of social distancing to flatten the curve and prevent the spread. In many places around the US, local governments are banning groups of more than 10 people from gathering together. Some cities and states where the virus is hitting hard have implemented more stringent measures; requiring individuals to shelter-in-place in their homes. Since live, physical events depend on large social gatherings of people, the event industry has been, and will continue to be dramatically impacted for some time.
Events scheduled for at least the next few months will most likely need to be adapted, cancelled, or postponed. Event cancellations and postponements will certainly put a damper on the event industry's revenue and profitability for the foreseeable future. However, even if you are unable to hold your event in the way originally planned due to the Coronavirus outbreak, there are ways event organizers can attempt to retain some revenue while still interacting with fans.
Here are a few ideas on how to retain revenue when facing event postponements and cancellations due to COVID-19:
1. Consider Going Virtual
Many parts of daily life during the Coronavirus outbreak are now being conducted and experienced online. Depending on the type of event, it may be possible to convert your event to a virtual experience. Some revenue will most likely be lost, but there may be potential for you to still provide value to the stakeholders involved. If your attendees, sponsors, performers and/or exhibitors can still get the majority of what they expected through a virtual experience, you may want to consider expanding virtually.
Many venues and businesses are shutting down or being put on hold during the Coronavirus pandemic. With that said, people are increasingly becoming accustomed to paying for digital experiences. The companies who can react quickly to drive interest and deliver value digitally will remain top of mind to their fans, which will help to boost their brand and image. You may not be able to deliver an equivalent virtual event that replaces a live event experience, but you could potentially offer other unique and community-building digital experiences during this time as an alternative.
2. Roll Over Ticket Purchases and Sponsorships
It's hard to know how long the country will be under stringent stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the Coronavirus outbreak. Therefore, it may be necessary for you to postpone or even cancel your event entirely. In times of uncertainty, try to be as flexible as possible in letting your attendees roll over the money they spent on the original ticket. This will help you keep your cash flow. Instead of issuing refunds, you may want to make their tickets valid for a later date, give them credit towards next year's event, or even trade their ticket for a different event later in the year.
You can also extend similar offers to your sponsors, exhibitors, and/or performers. It's likely these stakeholders may still be interested in participating in the same event at a later date, or even participating in a different event with a similar audience later this year or early next.
If possible, try to keep your cash flow and forecasted revenue for this event within your company. This is easier to do when you communicate regularly with your customers, sponsors, and other event partners. It will benefit you greatly to keep up regular communication and make the transfer process as friction-less as possible for everyone involved.
3. Sweeten the Deal
Although many understand due to the circumstances, postponing an event can still be frustrating for all involved. Fan, exhibitors, and sponsors have likely already made extensive plans to be at the event on the original date, so be sure that even during times of change and uncertainty, your loyal attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors still feel appreciated and valued by you.
You might want to consider trying to "sweeten the deal" for the people who are committed to rolling over their money with you. Think about special promotions, products, or experiences that add value to them but don't cost your company too much.
4. Maximize Event Insurance Coverage
Beyond lost revenue, the costs of canceling a large event can add up significantly. If it's likely you will have to cancel or postpone your event, you may want to start looking for event insurance coverage now that may apply to future events. Event cancellation insurance protects event organizers from the risks of event postponement, cancellation, and/or relocation due to circumstances beyond your control. Shop for insurance carefully, as policies vary in what they cover. Many policies offer “all-cause” coverage that is triggered by any broad range of unexpected causes. Others are written specifically for specific risks like extreme weather.
Managing in Difficult Times
We know and are sensitive to the fact that it is a difficult time for event organizers right now as events get put on hold or cancelled. PDC is here for you and ready to help any way we can throughout this pandemic. Please reach out to us if we can be of service.