Skift Take

Mixed messages are still coming from the industry about the safety of meetings and traveling despite travel bans and national emergencies that have led to lockdowns. It’s time to take responsibility for our industry and cancel your meeting.

Not sure if you know this, but I am Italian. Three hundred fifty people are dying in Italy every day because of the coronavirus. There is no more room to stack corpses. ICUs are at capacity, and doctors are being given frameworks for lessening the emotional burden of choosing who will live and die.

It’s a war zone — even in a wealthy region of Italy with some of the best public healthcare in Europe.

While I look at the devastation that is affecting my home country and, sorry to say, will affect other countries soon, I feel like I’m living in a dystopian world where some people in our industry are still pushing the message that it’s fine to meet and travel.

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It’s time to get a grip.

We are living in unprecedented times. Nobody in the modern world as we know it has experienced what we are going through today.

While people are dying in Italy, major industry figures have been inviting everybody to keep things going. The motto: Don’t be scared, it’s just a flu. A flu that fills hospitals and morgues.

That is still going on in parts of Europe and the U.S. Where gatherings have a cap of 50 people meetings are still happening. It doesn’t matter if 80 percent of the cases in Boston were linked to a small meeting. We will look back after this nightmare is over at how different leaders approached it. Minimizing will not come across in a good way.

Do you get where I am going here? Your meeting should not happen offline at this stage. You don’t have to cancel it outright. Postpone it or move it online.

The Hippocratic Oath of event professionals is to keep attendees safe. If you are hosting live events at this moment in time, you are endangering your attendees. You should contribute to flattening the curve.

You must look to other countries as an example of the consequences of inaction, of keeping business as usual. You may want to seek comfort and confidence in your event by deferring to the number of reported cases, but measure that against the number of tests actually being done in your community. Think logically about your ability to know the real level of risk, not just in the event city but in the cities where delegates might be coming from.

Too many variables, too many risks. Too many unknown factors.

These are the last words I would have imagined myself writing on this site. I know how painful it sounds. I know you want to keep on going for as long as possible. But there are times when we have to reassess our priorities, and this is one of them.

Keep business going or potentially expose attendees to a deadly disease?

Does that mean that you are out of business? No. You can still make it happen. You can transition to virtual. This is your best, most responsible option right now. Over 3,500 event professionals like yourself registered for our upcoming online summit, Pivot to Virtual. They made up their mind. They are not going ahead with live events. They are adapting.

The alternative is to cry and commiserate. It’s something we don’t do enough of as an industry. Use this time to read and learn. Keep yourself active. Think out of the box.

It’s tough out there. We will prevail and become a stronger, more united industry.

— Julius Solaris is the editor-in-chief of EventMB, a Skift brand.

Join EventMB’s Online Summit on March 18: Pivot to Virtual

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Tags: coronavirus, meetings and events

Photo credit: Until coronavirus passes, meetings and events must pivot to virtual. denisismagilov / Adobe

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