A Global Pandemic - The Ultimate Wrench in Your Event PlansLessons Learned and What Lies Ahead for Associations
By: Patti Loftis, Vice President & Director of AHT’s Nonprofit Practice
By now, most associations have been affected adversely by the current global pandemic. It’s a trying year for many as events, such as conferences and annual meetings, have either been cancelled or postponed to a later date, resulting in loss of revenue. There is also significant uncertainty about the future, with many association leaders trying to reposition their events to provide the greatest value to their members and constituents and keep the association relevant.
LESSONS LEARNED TO DATE
The pandemic has reinforced what we already knew – relationships are the key driver of success for associations – and the importance of them has been driven home even more through these times. More than ever, association leaders have been busy building and maintaining strong relationships with their membership, venues, conference centers, hotels and, yes, even their insurance broker. The key aspect of successful relationships at a time like this is having partners that are flexible and willing to work with you to find alternative solutions that will benefit all parties.
What else have we learned? Not all contracts are the same and Force Majeure clauses are not non-boiler plate. This has been a real eye opener for many associations. We have discovered that contract clauses can be worded in a variety of ways making some far stronger than others. Going forward, it will be essential to pay close attention to Force Majeure clauses and work with your legal team to make them as sound and as favorable to the association as possible.
GOING VIRTUAL – A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE, WHAT TO KNOW & THE FUTURE (AT LEAST 5 MINUTES FROM NOW)
Many events that were scheduled as “in-person events” have transitioned into some form of “virtual event”, which is a new experience for most. But, associations are not just taking their events into a virtual world but also board and committee meetings with voting done online vs in person.
While some associations may have already had a virtual component included within their in-person events, holding events that are 100% virtual presents their own set of challenges as far as structure, content, etc.
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
Moving to a virtual environment can be kind to your budget by saving on venue costs, travel, on-site logistics and more. It also enables more people to attend who may have been limited with their ability to get to an in-person event or be out of the office for the duration of the event.
Some associations have also adjusted the delivery method of content they provide to members in a variety of ways. For those that may have “mailed” a newsletter or publication before, many are turning to electronic distribution now. Is this a good thing? For a lot of us, yes, as we are used to getting our information digitally. Plus, it saves money on printing and mailing. Will some people miss holding that publication in their hands and smelling the ink jump off the page, yes – and you know who you are!
We are all adapting to this new environment and expect that many of these developments will “stick” in these changing times.
WHAT TO KNOW
Let’s talk about what we know best – protecting your assets. Our clients continue to reach out with questions about Event Cancellation coverage for virtual events. As you can imagine, this is a new and evolving question. As the industry stands now, virtual events are not insurable by Event Cancellation policies, as policy structure of cancellation policies is to cover in-person events. If you are considering a virtual event, talk to your broker to discuss any coverage concerns. Another thought would be to contact your legal team to see if there is anything that should be considered from a legal perspective.
And, while your staff has been more safe working in a remote environment the past few months, what isn’t as safe is the security of your network. The pandemic has brought threat actors out of the woodwork and, unfortunately, nonprofit organizations have been hard hit. Keep in mind that Cyber Insurance has both 1st and 3rd party coverage grants with the option to include Business Income due to a cyber event. Therefore, we cannot stress this enough – review your Cyber insurance policy carefully! If you do not have one yet – talk to your broker immediately. It’s a decision that can save or sink your association. Prevention is key and your broker should be able to walk you through the strategies to prevent and/or manage a cyberattack.
THE FUTURE (AT LEAST 5 MINUTES FROM NOW)
The one thing we know is things may be “getting back to normal” but nobody is certain what that normal is today or will be a week from now. As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters of a global event that has turned the Event Cancellation insurance and the rest of the industry on its ear, we have found ourselves thrust into a new and very fluid environment — where we have learned that relationships, flexibility and patience are still three very important words in everyone’s vocabulary.
We will continue to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape of the association world, as it pertains to risk assessment, coverage and, especially, education about carrier and governmental updates.