What Everybody’s Talking About

by Jonathan Margolis

So what are you doing about the virus?

What do you do when asked a question like this. For me, I do what I do whenever I get asked anything that requires a slightly deeper thought process – I get a fresh cup of coffee, grab a seat by the sun-soaked window, and write a blog. I figure that way I can provide my answer and also throw my Digital Director some much welcomed social content for the site.

My guess is I’m not the only one being asked this from colleagues and friends given the current climate. Personally I prefer not to think about it, let alone write about it, but alas here we are.

From a business standpoint we’ve been fortunate in that we’re currently producing a large amount of B2B conference and events, both nationally and internationally. It’s beyond exciting. But as you can imagine, such events require extensive travel, both for producers and attendees.

When we first started producing events, particular outdoor activations, the topic no one ever rushed to address was the rain plan. No one wants to think it’s going to rain on their parade. Gotta love a client that says “don’t worry, it’s not going to rain”. That’s almost as believable as my kids telling me they don’t have anymore homework as they check their social media feeds. You want to believe them, but there’s a small part of you that has no choice but to question the validity of their statement.

It feels as though once we conjured up enough nerve to make it standard practice to address weather contingency plans upfront, we were forced to address a much worse issue, presenting an active shooter plan, especially for any public facing event. It was something none of us wished to think about let alone talk about, but as a necessary safety precaution for all involved, we did, and continue to do so.

And now we’re faced with yet another issue. Given this outbreak do we cancel these conferences and events we’ve all worked so hard to produce? My guess we weren’t the first agency to confer with our livestream partner this week on how to pivot to a virtual conference.

Part of being an event producer is bringing up those not so hot topics that no one either thinks about or wishes to think about. Personally I don’t blame clients for not wanting to address what might be the inevitable, but professionally I don’t have a choice. We have to be proactive versus reactive. We have to be the expert on Plan B’s, C’s, and D’s.

Replying on third party partners to help build a set or staff an event is one thing. However we’re talking about things that are way beyond our control. Such circumstances leads us to use the words “force majeure” in meetings – something everyone knows is written into a contract but could go an entire professional career without coming into play.

So to answer the question posed at the top of the post.

First and foremost, we’re going to ensure the safety of our staff. Currently our teams are wrapping an event in San Francisco, traveling by train to site visits in DC and gearing up for international flights. Should we feel there’s reason to curtail this, we will.

Next, we’ll reassess the current roster of events, and work with our clients to either amend or unfortunately cancel an event if necessary. From a selfish standpoint (and yes, I realize it’s selfish, but also honest), as a business owner, I’m forced to evaluate the time and resources spent to date on a project and how cancelling it could affect the business financially. Fortunately not only do our clients understand and sympathize with the situation, many third party vendors such as airlines or hotels are graciously waiving cancellation fees and doing their best to accommodate any sudden change in plans.

Last, we’ll remain hopeful that this outbreak will stabilize soon. That those affected with the virus will be cured, that communities will remain safe, and we can all go back to worrying about something far less important in comparison, like the weather.