The current government shutdown has everyone feeling uncertain about plans for 2019. Associations are particularly impacted by the political impasse because the ink is likely already dry on contracts for this year’s events. While we all know that this too shall pass, remaining proactive in communications and solutions will ensure the impact on your group is diminished and that the effects don’t last longer than you expect.
Review the speaker roster. If your meeting relies on speakers who work in the federal government or groups that are closely tied to the federal government for support, determine a date and plan in which you will move to replace speakers or cancel sessions if necessary. Communicating that date can reduce frantic calls to the office.
Research out how your international speakers may be impacted. They should apply earlier for visas or other necessary paperwork. Review updates from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs to understand how residents from different countries may be processed. Still early in the planning process? You may need to adjust your speaker invitation plan. Or you may need to give that speaker the option to withdrawal.
Manage a cancellation crisis. This one especially hurts because it impacts revenue. People may be slower to register or eager to cancel. Review your registration cancellation policy and consider extending the cancellation date for a penalty. You want to work with attendees so that they don’t cancel just to avoid a penalty. Conversely, consider doing short term extensions on discounted rates for registrants who couldn’t take advantage of early bird registration.
Explore teleconferencing options. It doesn’t hurt to explore what it would take to teleconference a speaker in from across the ocean, or out to the desktops of people who can’t travel.
Demystify what is happening at TSA checkpoints. Sometimes the fear of being stranded, or greatly inconvenienced, will freeze people in place. Send regular updates to attendees that provide them up to the minute information you hear from local resources. Tell attendees how to find out what is happening at their home airport. Highlight the hotel cancellation rules so that people know when they have time before changing plans.
Promote alternative travel. People may want to drive if they can avoid long lines or hassles in the airport. Can you secure a discount on parking? List rates and addresses for nearby lots to make the decision easier.
Scale back food and beverage plans. You will still likely be responsible for minimums, you may be able to cut back on the number of people and dress up the party a bit.
Relocate off-site events. If you planned your function at a museum operated by the National Park Service, check to see how they are managing. Some museums have gotten local support to keep facilities open, others have been shuttered, requiring you to move your group. Your local CVB may be able to help.
If you do nothing else, continue to communicate with potential attendees and make sure they can reach you to answer questions. Without good information, people may make a decision in fear rather than being informed.