We spoke with Frank Supovitz, seasoned event planner of the Super Bowl (including the Blackout Bowl of 2013), and author of What To Do When Things Go Wrong. In light of the coronavirus’ unprecedented effect on the event industry, he shares seven pieces of crisis management advice for event professionals:
1. Respond, don’t react. A reaction is involuntary and visceral. It is scientifically proven that the adrenaline released by panic alters your brain function and can cause poor decision-making. A response, on the other hand, is a thoughtful process. So pause a moment, take a breath, and set aside a couple of minutes to reflect on the situation in front of you and identify the problem to solve. Whatever decisions you make concerning your event and business will have a myriad of consequences, and it’s your job to identify and think through each one.
2. Be composed. A leader who panics causes those around them to both stop listening and start to panic themselves.
3. Postpone, don’t cancel. Your audience and clients will be encouraged to hear that an event will take place down the line, whether it be this summer, fall or beyond. Develop a new timeline and get everyone on track in order to accomplish your goals.
4. Safety is your number 1, 2, and 3 concern. Profits come further down the list. Keeping your audience, staff, and partners safe is the primary consideration in your calculus for decision-making over the next days, weeks, and months.
5. Communicate promptly and regularly. Develop tailored messages for your staff, clients and partners. Transparency, authenticity and truth are paramount.
6. Develop one contingency plan that works for any problem. Because you can't predict what might go wrong, instead of making plans for every possible catastrophe (a flood plan, power outage plan, poor weather plan, venue cancellation plan, and so on), make a single generalized plan.
7. Evaluate your crisis response. After the crisis is over, take the time to reflect on your crisis management. While none of us has control over a coronavirus pandemic, we should have a cohesive and coherent emergency plan that works for all scenarios. Evaluate how you did in responding this time, so next time goes even more smoothly.