Written By: Linda Baker

Event organizers have been facing unbelievable pressure to decide how to handle the events they’ve planned for this year. Cancel? Postpone? Go virtual? Move to a hybrid model? Each option provides its own benefits and challenges.

This post focuses on what event organizers need to do when they make the decision to postpone to a future date. Once you have made the decision to postpone, and your facility and hotel partners have found dates to accommodate your meeting, you’ve got a lot to do. It will be tough to reduce what is usually a 14-month process to six months, but possible.

Here’s a checklist of considerations to guide you through that process.

Reschedule speakers for the new dates.

The faster you can get on their calendars, the fewer holes in the program schedule you’ll have to fill with new content. Work with your speakers to:

  • Shift the dates and times of the presentations
  • Ask speakers to add new content to their presentations address COVID-19 response
  • Rebook airfare
  • Reapply for Continuing Education credit
  • Update all of the speaker agreements with new information
  • Add new content or a track that addresses the lessons learned from the pandemic and the impact on your industry as needed

Confirm vendors for the new dates.

Touch base with current vendors and confirm they can support the new dates and, if not, find replacements where necessary. Cover all areas of the event’s logistics:

  • AV
  • Transportation
  • Decorator
  • Off-site events, entertainment, bands
  • Security
  • Photographer
  • Overflow hotels
  • Marketing partners

Determine appropriate attendee, exhibitor, sponsor refund and/or credit policies.

In addition to credits and refunds from the current event, consider delaying the early-bird and discount deadlines of the new event as long as possible to give people more time to decide if they will attend. You can also support exhibitors and sponsors by offering to move some of their funds to an online platform to give them exposure now rather than waiting for the rescheduled event. Inform all participants about the new policies and give them the option and time to cancel or carryover funds to the rescheduled event.

Consider that holding two meetings close together (the rescheduled one and the following year’s meeting are closer together) may result in attrition.

Determine the best way to handle the impact that will have on your organization’s revenue.

Move exhibitors’ physical materials.

The size of your show floor will dictate how much effort this will take. Exhibitors will need support with their freight, having previously materials returned or shifted for the new dates. They will also need options and policies to apply funds to the future event. The more flexible you can be, the better. You should also consider giving exhibitors and sponsors later deadlines for submitting their payments.

Rely on your planning partners during this time. They are partners in your success and can ease the burden of this extensive process. They can also deploy more resources to work within the shortened time window and help you find ways to make the rescheduled event as powerful as the one you had originally planned.

While the pandemic is obviously detrimental to our industry, it is devastating to the hourly hotel and convention staff. We depend on the housemen, housekeepers, AV techs and union workers to make our events go smoothly. It’s our turn to help them. Please consider joining us in making a contribution to the Meetings Industry Fund.

Although the next few months will be difficult, we will recover from this. Attendees need professional networking and will be returning to meetings in full force when this situation is resolved.

This article originally ran on Conference Managers. See more here.