A client called me to ask some advice.  I had been the keynote speaker at her event two years ago, and had referred her to a few other speakers for he future events, (I know one thing is true, most event do not want the same keynote speaker two years in a row, so I always help them find other fresh ideas for keynote speakers).  She and I had become friends, and her call was a bit of a panic about her 2020 vent the first week of April.  She did not need a speaker, but wanted some help with backup plans for her event if they have to cancel it at the last minute because of the Coronavirus.

This is a scary time in the meeting industry because of Coronavirus. The risk to the general public is still low, but the fear is real.  Those in the meetings business are looking to online event options.

There is a lot of talk online and in person by all types of people who work in and around the meeting industry, as canceling events impacts many people.  As a speaker, my peers and I are concerned, as our business is about live events. Hotels and other venues employ hundreds of people based on their occupancy levels. Transportation companies need people to move, or they are out of business.  The list of people who earn their livings and support their families from live events is long.

My client does not yet think she is going to need to call off the conference (FYI, I am not the speaker at her event this year), but if she does she is looking for ideas on how to create a virtual online event and keep her participants engaged in some way in the wake of the Coronavirus.  As an membership driven industry association, her live events are the lifeblood of education, networking, and community.  In 50 years they have never canceled a live meeting and are hoping they do not have to this year.

We talked ways to create a plan B should live gatherings need to be canceled in the United States. I have some experience hosting hybrid conferences (via a program called The Conference Talk Show), and having hosted about 600 podcast episodes I have learned some about speaking with energy and engagement when not live on stage.  Not all speakers have the skills to be a virtual keynote speaker.

The meetings industry organizations (ASAE, MPI, PCMA, etc….) are doing a good job of providing information to meeting planners about the current situation of international health scare, and providing ideas for what to do should attendees not be able to travel from certain countries, or how to plan online events in the wake of Coronavirus. I sent my friend an article on the PCMA blog that addressed this and a link to a regularly updated page on the ASAE site that has information and ideas for planners.

As we brainstormed idea around online events in the era of Coronavirus, I also offered to help her by interviewing all of her speakers (or some of her speakers) on my Podcast, Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do.  Even thought her association topics are not about “business”…. it is my show, and I can do anything I want on my podcast, and a series of interviews from people on her agenda could be released and give her a way to continue to drip out information to her members in a unique way.  We also talked about my helping her create a podcast of her own for the association that is made up specifically of interviews with the speakers that would be at the live event.

I do not have all the answers for my friend on what to do, but if she does need to put together a last minute online event, I did promise to help her coach the speakers (if they need it) on what to do if presenting online. While her main keynote speaker is a professional who should be able to translate her content and energy to a virtual keynote speaker, her breakouts are all members of her organization that do not have any experience on webinars.

If you work in the meetings industry, I would like to hear your ideas on how organizations can handle moving to online events in the wake of coronavirus. While none of my clients are looking to cancel events (yet), I want to be prepared to be a resource for them in finding ways to create online events / virtual conferences.

Read my other blog post on virtual meetings / virtual conferences / hybrid meetings.

About Thom Singer

Thom Singer has worked for nearly 15 years as a keynote speaker and corporate master of ceremonies.  As a speaker or EmCee he combines a robust mix of actionable content with a high-energy delivery style.