Over the last couple months, the news has been filled with alarming stories that are greatly affecting the travel and events industries. Terrorist attacks in Europe, the Zika virus plaguing South and Latin America and even the passage of controversial laws in some US states have caused attendees and event organizers alike to cancel, reschedule or adapt their plans. For example, 41% of Americans are rethinking travel to the Caribbean, Latin and South America due to the Zika virus alone.
No matter how directly or indirectly you and your event are connected to these headlines, it’s always good to air on the side of caution when it comes to addressing potential attendee concerns about safety, venue location and potential refunds. Whether scary or controversial, news of this nature can also make attendees uneasy about travel and security. As a result, they will be turning to event organizers for answers and information to make their event experience a more comfortable one.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind to help you focus on keeping attendees informed and what else to do behind the scenes in order to maintain a successful event, despite concerns over a potential security or health threat.
Whether you’re planning a new event or have been running a successful one for years, it’s always good to have a plan in place for when safety concerns affect your events, as well as to make it a point to revisit these plans to ensure your methods are up to date as new technology emerges. From creating messaging copy templates and email lists, to maintaining a list of important phone numbers and insurance plans, plan ahead so when things do go wrong, you’re ready to take action to tend to your attendees.
It’s also always good to touch base with your staff prior to/during the event to make sure everyone knows what and who they are responsible for and that they have access to all necessary information about the concerns and your procedures to address them. It will make all stakeholders feel much more prepared and calm for when attendees have questions.
Do your research
So what exactly do you plan for? It may be useful to research common extreme weather events or local safety concerns that are unique to your event venue locations. Does your event happen during hurricane season? Is there a high terror alert in that city? Is there a disease outbreak attendees should be aware of? Completing this research ahead of time will only help you in the long run and may it be a contributing factor in deciding what venue location is best suited for your event.
If your venue has already has been selected and something comes up, keep tabs on its developments. It may be useful to setup Google alerts specific to your event location(s) so that you can learn about a security, health or weather threats as soon as they happen, as well as monitor its progress. Connect with local news and government associations to get their feedback and to further make sure you are up to date.
Constant communication is key
This is an obvious tip for sure, but it’s perhaps the most important to maintain throughout any news that affects your event. It is of the utmost importance to maintain contact with attendees prior to, during and post event and to provide all the important information across a variety of channels; i.e. via email, on your event website, social media, press releases, etc.
I actually was on the attendee side of a minor health threat once. While on a business trip a few years ago, I had a couple meetings at a large conference nearby. A few days later, post-event, I received an email alerting me that a fellow attendee was hospitalized with a possible case of legionnaires’ disease – a type of pneumonia that’s caused by being exposed to bacteria in water sources. Even though I was only at the conference for a couple hours, “hospitalized” and “legionnaires’ disease” were pretty scary to read at first, but the conference not only provided information about this disease (one that I and I assume many others had zero knowledge of), but also a list of symptoms to watch out for and notice that they had also been working with nearby hotels to keep track of the potential outbreak.
Luckily, it turned out that the attendee didn’t have legionnaries’, and the conference immediately alerted attendees of the news, but their constant communication was greatly appreciated. Not only did they alert attendees of every update, but they gave us information on what the disease was and what to look out for in case we’d contracted it.
While it may be different for each type of crisis, provide all the information as often as needed on a variety of communication channels. Your attendees be anxious for news and will appreciate list of symptoms and/or safety tips.
Let your attendees know the steps you are taking
If your attendees are still expressing concerns about their health and safety while onsite, advertise the measures that you are going to take to ease their anxieties. Along with putting information and resources on your event website and mobile app, let them know of any emergency or informative alert system you have. Maybe you promise to send push notification to mobile displays or display updates on digital signage. Either way, if your attendees know what to look for, you will be creating a safer environment.
Also, point attendees to other ways to stay up to date outside of your event. Because of the increased threat of terrorism in Europe, the French government, for example, has recently launched a terror alert mobile app ahead of a upcoming soccer tournament where nearly 100,000 people will be attending.
Overall, when it comes to safety concerns, maintaining a communication plan before, during and after your events is crucial to keeping your attendees informed and comfortable. By doing your homework and answering questions head on, you’ll show attendees how much you care about their well-being, which will contribute to your attendee satisfaction and event success.
Have you had to deal with unexpected safety or health concerns leading up to an event? How did you effectively communicate with your attendees? Share in the comments section below!
Written by: Lauren Williams