Should I Cancel My Event Because of Coronavirus?
Note: Since the original publish date of this article, things have changed and all events have been cancelled in the Austin area due to a shelter in place order for Austin & Travis County. We are leaving this up in its original form in case sometime down the road, this decision criteria may again become relevant and helpful.
Those of us in the party & event industry are in a difficult situation because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It has infected many people around the world and continues to spread causing many conferences, meetings, parties and events to be cancelled. At Reventals, we are receiving calls every day with customers cancelling their party rentals because their events are being cancelled or postponed. Personally, this week I am working overtime planning a carnival for my children’s school, which is scheduled for the end of March. These daily, hourly and minute-by-minute cancellation decisions leave me and others wondering, should I cancel my event because of Coronavirus?
As I continue to work on finalizing last minute details to delight our school-community, here are the guidelines I have decided to base my decision on and I hope it helps you.
What do the national and local regulatory bodies say?
The CDC has posted many recommendations related to how we should respond to the threat of infection. Many of the large events cancelled in recent days have done so because many attendees must travel to the event location, raising the risk of the attendees becoming infected during their travel and spreading that infection while present in the local community.
Meanwhile, local authorities, like the city of Austin, have issued specific guidance related to events. For instance, there is a limit on the number of attendees to no more than 2500. When issued, guidelines like these should be followed to ensure the safety of both attendees and the local community.
What does the leadership of your community or organization say?
We have seen some great examples of communication from our companies, school districts, and local government. Many cite specific criteria like no more than 10 people in a meeting at some healthcare facilities. Leadership in some schools and school districts have restricted in-person attendance for school. And many companies are updating their sick-leave policies and banning non-essential travel. Leaders at work and in government are considering both the liability to the company as well as risk to the employees and attendees. These are difficult calls to make, so once a decision is clear, its best (and often required) to follow suit.
What does my community of attendees say?
There is no party without some guests! If you have a cascade of attendees dropping out, like was seen shortly before the cancellation of SXSW in Austin, it may be best to pay attention to those behaviors and come up with a different way to connect. Providing access to a virtual event is one option. However, if attendees are enthusiastic and still plan to show up in person, provide clear communication relating to expectations of the health of attendees and the best possible protection you are able to provide, like freshly cleaned venues and equipment.
So, will I cancel my event?
For now, my answer is no. I’ve decided to base this decision on three factors and reserve the right to change my mind if circumstances change. 🙂
- As a local event intended only for those in our school community, this event does not cause anyone to violate any travel restrictions or recommendations by the CDC. Furthermore, it does not exceed the limit of 2500 attendees issued by the city in which we reside. We will continue to monitor in case further recommendations are issued.
- The authorities over this community (in our case the school district) have not issued any new policies in relation to local school-sponsored events. We have received excellent communication from our district leadership and expect to be notified if this changes.
- The attendees for this event are children and families that gather daily at the school already, so this gathering does not necessarily increase any risk or exposure for the community. Children & parents continue to express excitement and support for the event, with a few asking if there is a contingency plan if circumstances require us to cancel. If there is concern enough that parents stop sending their children to school or many begin to express concerns about the health & safety of those attending, then we would take that into consideration and likely cancel the event.
Now, while I am not choosing to cancel this event at this point in time, I am stepping up efforts to ensure everyone is as safe and healthy as possible. I am looking into renting hand sanitizing and hand washing stations to provide at the event. I am also requesting that vendors provide information about their cleaning practices for the equipment we will be utilizing. Finally, I am making sure I am aware and clear on the cancellation policies of the vendors we have contracted so that I am providing proper notice to those involved should a cancellation become necessary. And I will communicate all of this with attendees as the time comes.