3 Step Response for Events Dealing With Unexpected Circumstances (Coronavirus)

Considering how many resources go into planning an event, cancellation is never ideal, and with the proper strategies in place, it shouldn't be needed. In this example, we will discuss the serious issue and ongoing effects of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Ryan Dornfeld, February 26, 2020
  1. Awareness: Be mindful of the current and evolving crisis.
  2. Preparation: Review contracts, insurance, and communications.
  3. Action: Have a plan to ensure the safety of attendees, staff, and the success of the event.

On Monday [Feb 24], the Coronavirus (COVID-19) took the world spotlight again with reports of increased infection in major world economies including Italy and South Korea. With this news and expanded caution around the globe (including travel restrictions and major event cancellations), it’s crucial that event planners go the extra step to stay informed of any developments, in other words, expect the unexpected. Event organizers need to make a checklist to review their contracts, insurance, and communications for upcoming projects. With preparations made and precautions in place, you can act confidently and adjust plans as necessary. 

1. Be mindful of the current and evolving health crisis.

Step one is to be educated on the situation at hand and how it could quickly impact your plans. With COVID-19, new cases continue to pop up. At the time of writing, the current risk of contamination in the U.S., and the U.K. is low, but you must still account for the possibilities, which includes an expanded outbreak. Reading news articles can be helpful, but more importantly, find trustworthy experts and agencies that are dealing with the issue directly.

[CDC Situation Summary] [NHS Coronavirus Page] [Global COVID-19 Case Map]

Source: Johns Hopkins CSSE

2. Review contracts, insurance, and communications.

First things first, know your contracts and insurance. Depending on the size and scope of your event, it is quite possible that many of your contracts may forgive obligation based on circumstances like the COVID-19 epidemic. Make sure such clauses exist in your contracts before signing them! It’s imperative to include language to protect yourself in dire circumstances like a disease outbreak or disaster. The burden of proof will be on the event planner to show that your circumstance is covered, e.g. COVID-19 being an “Act of God” that makes the event commercially impractical. 

Depending on what type of insurance you have purchased for your event, it is possible that your policy has an endorsement that covers unexpected cancellations and reduced attendance. Speak with your insurance broker (and attorney) to make sure you fully understand what is covered. 

The last part of your preparation phase is to stay in good contact with the event stakeholders, that being your investors, attendees, exhibitors, and vendors. Have appropriate statements ready for questions, especially related to possible crises. All statements should be reviewed by an attorney prior to issuance. 

3. Have a plan to ensure the safety of attendees, staff, and the success of the event.

If circumstances dictate that your event can not take place in-person, consider what tools you might be able to use to conduct your event remotely. Glisser does provide a powerful audience engagement platform that can be used to conduct events in person, purely online if necessary, or ideally, both. In addition to Glisser’s full functionality of slide sharing, interactive features, and in-depth analytics, Glisser LIVE enables presenters to live stream their presentations. In circumstances where an event is going to be disrupted, you can avoid wasting weeks of planning by conducting your keynote presentations remotely.

If you'd like to find out more about running hybrid and virtual events please get in touch with one of our hybrid events consultants.


If you are still planning on hosting an event offline, it is of the utmost importance to take steps to mitigate risk. Make sure you have safety guidelines in place for attendees and staff, that they are aware of any ongoing issues, and have access to medical supplies if necessary. Have a communications plan at the ready in case of emergencies. Safety should be your top priority.


This article shall not be considered legal or insurance advice. In all cases, consult appropriate counsel.

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