Erica Spoor Apr 3, 2020 12:00:00 AM 8 min read

"Go or No-Go": Facilitating the Decision for Your In-Person Event

Event strategists around the world are reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic as in-person events are being canceled, postponed or digitized.

Is it time for you to make a similar call? 

If you are at the beginning stages of making a tough decision, you’ll want to be sure you are thoughtful and strategic from beginning to launch. As a leader, you can ensure this process is productive by facilitating an efficient decision-making meeting.

Keep calm and use this agenda to help get you there. 

Facilitating an Effective Decision Point Meeting

1. Put Together Your Tiger Team

You’ll want to get the most crucial people in the room now. Put together your version of a “Tiger Team”—a term made famous by the NASA scientists, engineers, and other problem-solvers that worked together to bring Apollo 13 astronauts home. And be prepared to exclude some people, mindfully.

Keep this first tier of responders fairly tight-knit—those who can act swiftly to engage and mobilize the next tier. These are your cross-functional senior executive leaders, key event functional leaders (content/programming, sponsor/vendor relations, etc.), legal representation, and spokespeople are essential. 

2. Identify Roles

You’ll need to identify clear roles for each member of the team. They’ll need to understand not only where they are expected to have input in the decision, but also how the decision will be communicated internally and externally. 

Consider who is in the “must-know” category and inform subsequent team members as relevant. We need to stay calm and let the rest of the staff continue to execute at a normal level until a decision is made and a clear communication path is drawn. 

This team will be tasked with addressing the Top 7 Priority Areas to focus their decision-making. Use this list to decide whether to cancel, postpone, or make your live event virtual. 

3. Facilitate the Discussion

Prepare an agenda in advance with specific objectives and questions to answer. And, in doing so, make sure you collect and incorporate information from team members ahead of time. Your cross-functional team's ideas, facts, opinions and concerns will help you—and everyone—see both the issues and potential solutions holistically. 

You'll need some clear meeting guidelines to be efficient and effective. What are the important rules everyone must observe so that teammates feel respected, heard, and ensure you're capturing their ideas?

And you'll need to take external guidance into consideration. Based on our audit and analysis of 50+ digital events, we're seeing many emerging trends. We expect all events to shift to digital for the next 6–9 months. There is a strong possibility that in-person events won't pick up again until 2021—considering the total impact of government orders, reduced budgets, and business trepidation and concern.

You may not come to a definite conclusion in your first meeting, but be sure that you've captured ideas and assigned champions to do further research or lead on clearly-outlined next steps. And, for ultimate efficiency, schedule your next meeting before everyone departs.

"Cultivate this team mindfully to be sure to include a cross-function group that can mobilize quickly and expertly."

4. Define a Communication Flow

Once a decision has been made, you’ll need to standardize the communications strategy on what can be shared publicly and what can’t. I can’t emphasize this enough—it is so critical to be sure that leadership is in lock-step now.

Think of the process as “down and out”—you’ll need to communicate downstream and develop a separate message for communicating out, or to your external audiences. Then consider what this looks like across the company. Everyone is going to need facts, specific guidance, resources, and talking points ASAP.

Your “downstream teams” i.e. sales, marketing, technology, customer experience/support, will need to be informed so that they can best manage cancelations, execute messaging and field all of the feedback—be sure they are armed with all essential information and tools. It is critical to engage and inform anyone who interacts with customers, but it’s also important to maintain discretion to avoid the word getting out before you’re ready.

5. Develop an Inquiry Response Plan

You’ll need to set up a process to route questions and concerns—even ideas!—from your stakeholders. Whether it’s one person, a dedicated email address, or a more involved process, you’ll need a way to field all of the inquiries. 

Attendees, speakers, sponsors, vendors, and suppliers will all have unique concerns. Your internal teams will also have suggestions and you don’t want to curb the potential for innovation and ideation at a time like this. 

We’ve seen some of our clients set this up as a helpdesk function that allows them to prioritize (hot, warm, cold) and categorize inquiries. Whatever vehicle you choose, be sure they are armed with detailed FAQs and talking points. And be mindful about efficiency, bottle-necking, the value in preserving relationships, and the necessity of empathy in these high-pressure times. Help your team understand when they can take proactive steps to support stakeholders—even when the answers aren’t clear—and when they must escalate or receive approval.

At Impact Point Group, we’re seeing clients and partners of all sizes navigating tumultuous seas of uncertainty as they consider upcoming live events. As with anything in business, the most successful approaches are measured and strategic. 

Don’t go it alone. Impact Point Group’s expert consultants are adept at helping clients pivot engagement strategy, adjust measurement and design events with impact. Learn more about our digital event strategy services here.

— Erica Spoor