Coronavirus is scary. And it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.
And in the events industry the discussions are getting really interesting.
Given that COVID-19 seems to have a high rate of transmission at what point do you cancel events? Or change their scale? Or change the format to protect attendees?
The reality is that there are some very hard decisions to make. And money and safety are key considerations. Mix in a lot of uncertainty and bad information and who knows what you come up with?
You come up with some events saying they don’t plan to cancel, like the Olympics. While industry groups say meetings should go on because there are no federal restrictions on travel.
Meanwhile others are canceling their attendance at conferences. As an example many companies have canceled their attendance at the huge South By Southwest Conference in Austin.
At the end of the analysis there are business decisions to make. But beyond that there are ethics involved too. At some point you need to think about how your decisions impact others.
The Business As Usual Argument
In discussing this issue some speakers and some groups are making a “business as usual” argument. The core analysis goes like this: “we don’t know how bad Coronavirus is and therefore we shouldn’t make changes and impact the economy on limited information. In fact doing so might cause a panic that could impact families.”
And there are some important facts supporting this. Many people don’t have sufficient savings and an economic turndown from virus preparation and changes could very well hurt many people economically. This could mean food and housing issues for these people and their children.
But What About Others?
On the other hand early information shows that COVID-19 spreads very easily. China seems to be controlling the outbreak by using quarantines and extreme limits on travel. The level of restriction that many question whether Western countries would be willing to implement.
And if you are hosting an event do you have a duty to attendees? What happens from a branding standpoint if you happen to host the event where COVID-19 is transmitted to a lot of people?
I bet you’d feel bad.
And the question becomes what is right? Should the event go on? Or is the potential risk to others more important?
How Do We Balance The Two?
So the hard part is balancing the two. No one wants a panic or an economic shut-down from COVID-19. But at the same time you don’t want to endanger others.
I don’t see a right answer — but this is time for reflection.
How important is money? How important is the health of others?
Let’s face it — both are extremely important. Your values are going to determine how you balance the two.
One thing I encourage anyone in this situation to do is to remove constraints in your decision making. Get creative. Think about new ways to balance interest.
For instance there is talk of playing the NCAA Basketball Tournament with empty stands. A bit unusual but certainly creative.
What To Do Now
It’s time to reflect. And I think the decisions are bigger than business.
I recommend if you are faced with making a decision on whether an event should go on in this period of COVID-19 uncertainty you dig deeper than just the surface. Think bigger than dollars and sense. Think about how you would balance interests and your duties to your fellow man.
I’d really love your thoughts on COVID-19 and whether events should go on. Please join me in the comments below with your thoughts.
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