A long-term client had its Annual Conference scheduled for mid-August in Milwaukee. Already questioning the wisdom of proceeding with plans to host the conference with the uncertainty resulting from COVID-19 and shelter-at-home directives, the association’s board of directors was weighing the pros and cons of a cancellation recognizing that steep penalties were possible.
No decision had been made until…
The morning of April 2, 2020, news outlets reported that the Democratic National Convention was postponed from mid-July to mid-August in Milwaukee. That was the tipping point in the board’s decision.
Imagine hosting a conference in the same city at the same time as a national political convention with a projected attendance of over 50,000. Restaurant reservations – unavailable. Shared ride services – impossible. City sidewalks – jammed. Hotel lobbies – overrun.
Within minutes, staff reached out to the hotel to inquire about cancelling for 2020 and rescheduling for the next year. Though this association would typically be booked several years in advance for their annual conference, the 2021 contract had stalled when the hotel sales manager was furloughed because of COVID-19.
One hour after we reached out to the hotel, an electronic vote was distributed for board approval of the cancellation. Three hours later, the hotel issued a contract addendum moving the entire Annual Conference footprint forward to August 2021 without penalty. The following morning, the hotel contract addendum was signed, sealed, and delivered.
Just when you think you’ve seen and experienced every possible meeting calamity, you realize you haven’t.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re encountering a similar situation:
- Start the discussion with your leadership as early as possible if there is the slightest chance that you might cancel or reschedule a meeting.
- Prepare multiple scenarios that would work for your group and, hopefully, the hotel.
- Get everything in writing. In the event of a cancellation, be sure the terms of that cancellation are in writing beyond just the wording in the contract.
- Search for a win-win solution.
- Check the CVB website often for other events and meetings that may be in the city at the same time as your conference. These other events may not end up affecting your group, but it’s good to have all relevant information.
If your association is struggling with the decision to cancel a meeting or move it to a virtual platform, IMI Association Executives is here to help. We have 30+ years of conference experience and can help you choose and execute the best event strategy for your organization. Call us today.