Your Conference Was Just Cancelled – Now What?

We’re living in some crazy times…. lack of political leadership, a rapidly aging population and unsustainable healthcare costs, global warming – to name just a few – and now a pandemic crisis with COVID-19. While we digest information and manage the personal impact of this situation, we must go on with day-to-day life and manage what we can control both at home and at work.

Work-wise, we’re unfortunately in the thick of Spring medical conference season, and many of them are canceling. This of course is a huge loss to the meeting organizers – some of which exist solely for this purpose – but also all the vendors that service these meetings, and peripheral businesses such as area hotels and restaurants.

You have been planning for at least one conference for months, maybe even a year. So what do you do?  

From a PR and communications standpoint, I can say the first thing to do is not shut down. PR-driven events, media relations, and 3rd party meetings can still take place in different formats. Most journalists cover conferences remotely, so there’s not much of an adjustment there.  

In addition, since all conference audiences consume online and mobile media, consider ways you can reach them as you would have in person through remote technology. You should maximize use of your social media platforms to communicate relevant information and updates. In a big company, work with your corporate comms or social media teams to integrate more than less of your content and promote online events.  

Some of the conferences may offer an online format, but even if they don’t, here are some other communications considerations:

  • Can you turn a symposium or non-data presentation into a webinar?
  • If you have an interactive element to your booth, could you offer it through a web portal?
  • Also optimize use of your sales reps, MSLs, and communication tools to HCPs to maintain the personal contact you gain from face-to-face conference interaction.

Your conference is still happening. Now what?

This is a more difficult situation to address right now. You may have employees or team members who don’t want to travel or be around many other people. Companies have to be flexible enough to respect individual concerns and decisions, and not penalize those who may opt out. Be transparent, thoughtful, and compassionate. COVID-19 will eventually dissipate, and there will be collateral damage, so you will need your employees to work hard and remain loyal. Think and act for the longer term.

#healthcare #COVID19 #coronavirus #publicrelations