We Are In It Together: Compassion and Empathy for Our Conference and Event Partners

March 12th, 2020 by inflectra

One of the strange features of the Coronavirus epidemic is that we are being asked to limit social interaction to prevent the spread of the disease, while at the same time, the anxiety around what is happening is increasing our need to talk to each other and have social interaction. We were inspired by the recent article in the Washington Post - "Compassion in the time of coronavirus" to think about the people we normally work with, that are having a hard time, and try and send some much needed virtual love and support.

Event Organizers are Having a Tough Time Right Now

You have read the headlines, conference X is cancelled, festival Y is cancelled, the city of Z has decided to ban all public events of 1,000 people or more. Now we work with the same conference and event organizers every year. We do about 12 trade shows with 3-4 different organizations (names withheld, but you know who you are) each year and we have drinks with them, share coffee, they are almost like family. We spend about 12 weeks on the road, and for many of our employees, these people are like friends you see every year, sometimes in the same city, sometimes in a new place.

So even though for the most part our business is not as directly impacted by the Coronovirus as others (our products are online, our sales and support is done by phone, email and online conferencing), our customers and partners are at the forefront of our minds each day.

When you hear about an event not happening, it means that 6-months to a year of hard work, effort, organizing and passion will have been stopped in its tracks, it means that the company will have to consider the financial implications. For example, most event liability and cancellation insurance has a standard exception for "force majeure" which includes things like nuclear war. Most people don't think about these, but almost all policies say something like this:

This insurance does not cover any loss directly or indirectly arising out of, contributed to, by or resulting from any Communicable Disease or fear or threat thereof (whether actual or perceived.

Exclusion X. of this Insurance shall only apply if a Communicable Disease has been declared as an epidemic or pandemic by the World Health Organization or by Federal or Local Government Agencies responsible for monitoring healthcare and disease.

Depending on the contract the organizer has with the venue or hotel, it means they may still have pay 50-70% of the entire cost of the hotel and catering, even if the event does not happen, plus a bunch of other time and expense for the organizing. So a combination of the organizer or the hotel and staff (often a small local business that franchises hotels under a "big hotel" brand) will end up paying out of pocket.

Empathy and Understanding

So when we hear that our favorite event has been cancelled, or that the organizers have decided to go ahead with precautions in place, let's not rush to judgement. When the organizer says that they will only be able to refund 50% of the ticket or can only provide a credit for future events, let's not freak out and rush to name and shame them all over social media. Instead let's take a collective deep breath and realize that the organizers are probably going to lose lots of money, have to lay off staff and deal with lots of angry customers for the next month or longer.

Instead, how about we all write something nice online, say that we're sorry that the event is cancelled, and that we hope that they are OK. Think of all the hard work and goodness that went into organizing that event and let's be reassured in the knowledge that they are trying their best and are actually looking out for our health and wellbeing.

In that sentiment, myself and the team at Inflectra wish all of our partners and colleagues around the world the best as we deal with this unprecedented event.

Adam Sandman


conferences partners events compassion understanding empathy

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