July Special Edition 2020

A fresh resource for people who plan and manage meetings, events, business travel, promotions and incentive programs. Providing you with inspiration, guidance and great ideas.

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B R I G H T I D E A S , N O T A B L E N E W S , C O O L T R E N D S G o o d t o K n ow Among the many challenges faced by the industry as the pandemic forced the cancellation or postponement of meetings and events was how to relay those changes to attendees, exhibitors, suppliers and other stakeholders. Communicating in a time of crisis takes on a different tone and nuance that many have never had to navigate on such a scale. Alex Plaxen, vice-president, experience strategy, for Nifty Method Marketing + Events, based in Washington, D.C., hosted an online webinar with Meeting Professionals International about crisis communication the week after most of Canada entered into lockdown. It's important to determine some baseline ideas before you communicate, says Plaxen. Ask yourself: • Who will speak on behalf of the organization? • What will they say? • How often will they address the audience? • Why would they speak? A core idea of crisis communication is message mapping—the main objective that you consistently demonstrate through all communication. Your message should express that your brand is trustworthy and your stakeholders can count on you to do what is right and in the best interest of the group. How to effectively communicate with your audience in hard times by Sandra Eagle There are three key concepts that you need to communicate: T H E S C E N A R I O Explain that you are monitoring the situation and be transparent about your decision-making process. Transparency lets people know that you can be trusted. YO U R K E Y M E S S AG E Give links, consolidate information about your events, and let people know you are monitoring key government agencies like Health Canada or federal and provincial guidelines for meetings. If you have created a landing page on your website or have created a blog post, keep up-to-date information at the top, but keep previous posts on the site. Deleting previous messages can lead to mistrust. E M PAT H Y Let your audience know you understand their investment in your event, that cancellation has an impact on their business goals and that everyone's health and safety is your number one priority right now. Going forward, communications about postponed events and new events should be crafted carefully, according to Katie Dunsworth Reiach, partner and co-founder of Toronto- based Talk Shop Media. "The world has grown increasingly sensitive and concerned about large gatherings and timing is everything. If Message Received your event has not adjusted to meet current gathering guidelines or pivoted to take on a more virtual offering, you may be putting yourself at risk. There is still speculation about what events in the 2020/2021 year will look like. Avoid offering too many details before you know what is possible." Dunsworth Reiach advises against speculation about when your event can be rescheduled unless you have a regional go-ahead. "Nothing will be certain for many months—and even years to come—on what events and public gatherings will become. You are better to move to a virtual event or plan for the following year than to continue to operate with uncertainty." In talking with delegates and stakeholders, Dunsworth Reiach recommends working from a master communication document that addresses essential questions and answers: Think of the most frequently asked questions and prepare short bullet-point responses. "You'll then have to determine how proactive you are able to be with all of your related groups. If your event is less than six months away, communicating your current status is important. Then move into monthly updates of what each group needs to know and do." It's also a good idea to provide contact information on your event's web and social media pages on who to contact for questions as many delegates and suppliers may not read email communication and will be looking to proactively ask questions. You should also plan for tough conversations where a stakeholder may demand a repayment or refund. "Get clear internally on what your policy is and how you will handle these difficult requests," she says. July 2020 | Ignitemag.ca | 5

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