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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua & Chief Marketing Officer, SITE. 

In the MICE business we’re used to things going viral. These things, however, are usually to do with the mildly embarrassing occurrences that happen at events, like the CEO doing his Dad-dance at the company Christmas party. Who knew we’d be dealing with a real virus and one that, in a small number of cases, can be fatal?

In ways Coronavirus has snuck up on us like a thief in the night. A few short weeks ago we looked on with detached interest as China battled with the initial outbreak in one of its provinces. Now, almost out of nowhere, we’re looking at an entire EUR country in lockdown and, closer to home here in Ireland, we’re cancelling our St Patrick’s Day public celebrations, the traditional kick-off of our crucially important tourism season.

A huge percentage of the businesses in our sector are SMEs, that is, small to medium enterprises that don’t have huge cash reserves or the deep pockets that global behemoths can often rely upon. Daily, these businesses all over the world are watching helplessly as hard and expensively won contracts dematerialise before their eyes.

Is there anything we can do?


Stick with the facts

There’s no shortage of content out there on Coronavirus. The ceaseless hourly reporting on main stream media is certainly keeping us up to date but its relentlessness is also causing acute concern and now fear and panic are spreading faster than the virus itself.

In addition, all the usual social channels are clogged with it and, as we well know, anything goes on Social Media, except, it might seem, accuracy and truth.

They say the first casualty of war is truth and that appears also to apply in the war against Coronavirus.

So the first step is to find a trusted source of information and then base any business decisions and plans on the plain facts. The World Health Organisation (WHO) directs international health within the United Nations’ system and leads partners in global health responses. This is a great place to start.

Regionally, there are other official organisations such as the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) in the US and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) but the national health authorities in each individual country are probably the best and most important places to start.

Postpone, don’t cancel

At time of writing, in most European countries, we are not in a “Force Majeure” situation. This means, from a vendor perspective, all contractual obligations remain in force and cancellations attract the usual penalties. If a corporation or an association decides to cancel when there are no restrictions in the destination around staging an event of that size, then the contract must apply as a first response.

Obviously it’s up to individual vendors to decide whether to enforce the terms of the contract and vendors, certainly,  will look at each instance on a case by case basis with due regard to the totality of the relationship with the client.

From what I’m hearing, most DMCs, PCOs and other vendors faced with such scenarios are retaining funds already paid and seeking to re-accommodate the programme at a later date in this calendar year.

This approach is both reasonable and fair given that up to 80% of the work in support of a conference or incentive is usually done BEFORE the event goes live.

Take advantage of this “period of reflection”

We’re being  told this is a once-in-a-lifetime event – a bit like those massive snow dumps that sometimes occur in Vancouver or Dublin, closing down the unprepared city for a week. And what do you do at times like that? You use it as precious “time to reflect”, that’s what!

Try to take advantage of the extra time to tackle those items on your to do list that you’ve constantly de-prioritised due to over- wrought schedules. Updates to your website? Now is the time to get them done. Work on your road map or business journey? Use this time to face the “brutal facts” (remember Jim Collins, Good to Great?) and re-engineer that road.

We often liken the rhythm of our work life to a fair ground roundabout in perpetual motion. Well, it’s slowing down now and it’s safe to jump off. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to check out the other fairground rides? Maybe there’s a better one. Or maybe there’s a better fairground? If nothing else, at least when you jump back on, you’ll know for certain this is the ride of your life!


Be kind

If Coronavirus is telling us anything, it’s that we’re all unavoidably and indispensably connected. We can try to build walls and isolate ourselves but, fundamentally, we’re all inextricably linked, whether we like it or not.

While the recommended health precautions involve keeping others at a distance (1 – 2m apparently) and outlaw all of the usual greeting conventions that make our industry what it is (vigorous web-to-web handshakes, arms around the shoulders, hugs, 1, 2 or 3 kisses on the cheek etc) let this not lessen the empathy, tolerance, understanding and kindness that is, equally, the hallmark of how we roll.

Nothing in the precautionary recommendations mentions smiling and the warm kindness that we can spread with joyful eyes and happy faces. Was Spike Milligan’s little poem ever so apt?

Smiling is infectious
You can catch it like the flu
When someone smiled at me today
I started smiling too

This too shall pass

Almost twenty years ago, around this time of year, Foot and Mouth disease brought Ireland to a standstill, causing extreme hardship to farmers and the cancellation of Cheltenham and the St Patrick’s Day parade.

It caused untold short term losses for DMCs and PCOs too.

However, things recovered and Foot & Mouth was soon forgotten.

So too with Coronavirus.

Stick in there.

This too shall pass.

Pádraic Gilligan, Patrick Delaney and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels, venues, agencies and associations on strategy, marketing and training for the Business Events industry. 



19 thoughts on “Coronavirus – 5 things to keep in mind

  1. w2igo says:

    Well said.

  2. Katrin says:

    Brilliant as always Pádraic, well said

  3. Padraic, great perspective…thanks for sharing! Cheers…

  4. Miek Egberts says:

    You really nailed it Padraic!

  5. dr.jesuraj mascarenhas says:

    let me know the five things about C virus

  6. Excellent article, Padraic. You are right, this too shall pass. Let’s hope that everyone remains calm, separates fact from fiction, and that the disruption in our lives and businesses is short-lived. Be kind, smile, wash your hands!

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks Michael – hope all is well with you!

  7. John Carroll says:

    Super piece Padraic, sensible & compassionate in equal measures. Kindness can go a long way. Hope all is well. JC

  8. PJ Kenny says:

    Padraic, well said, Reflection is something that can be priceless if used wisely….. It will indeed pass. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Tes Proos says:

    Thank you Padraic. I concur with all of the above. Maybe this situation should also be taken as a wake-up call. We spray our aircraft for bugs prior to take-off to many destinations but there is always the one person on the aircraft spluttering and coughing and sharing the love to all via the aircraft air-conditioning. Inevitably one ends up with some sort of flu or chest infection on the other side. Why don’t we have the current preventative measures for all boats, planes and trains anyway? As I mentioned in my video last week – as per CDC figures, more than 350 million cases of “regular” flu were recorded last year of which 34600 deaths! A darn shame that IMEX Frankfurt is now also cancelled, just adding a few more nails to SME coffins and I am one of them. You are quite right about that merry-go-round, so see you on the other side of the fairground! 🙂
    Here’s wishing all of us the strength and resilience we need to get through 2020.

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks Tes – there’ll be a few of us looking for alternative opportunities in that fairground!

  10. gorazdcad says:

    Great article Padraic. It’s hard for me to think rationally today, because of the IMEX cancellation. I somehow naively thought that this would all blow over. An interesting paradigm is showing these days. Events truly are 80% communication and 20% production. It’s time to focus on communication, share a positive message, learn something from the crisis, innovate and digitalise. Maybe the epidemic will turn us into an even more creative industry.

    1. padraicino says:

      Thanks for the comment Gorazd – appreciate it! And, of course, you’re right: maybe this is the stimulus we need to be a more creative industry!

  11. Tara says:

    Well said! Common sense and a dose of caution must prevail in times such as these. Forwarding to my friends and colleagues, thank you!

  12. M P Flanagan says:

    Made my morning!

  13. sam stanton says:

    Preach it! You are right on. It’s coming, or it’s here…it’s decimated our businesses or will. But pause, regroup, catch up, refocus, recharge, hang on, and BE READY to come out of this full speed ahead. Kudos to the industry pros who have frozen/postponed as opposed to cancel….HOPE is everything…it’s not a plan or goal, but it’s a spirit boost, it’s something to look forward to, it’s the shining light at the end of the tunnel we all need! Stay safe, stay well!

  14. Cherie Weinstein says:

    Great article as usual Padraic. Love the advice about reflection, (perhaps leading to new directions).

  15. A Powerful article Padriac. Thank You!

  16. Thanks Padraic! We agree totally with you!!! We had for our very first time, an incentive group going to Dublin at the beginning of May, which is postponed (not cancelled). We wish to stay there before the end of this year with this Argentinean Insurance Incentive Group. Even more with our youngest boy working and living in Dublin since february. We send you to all of you, virtual hugs and kisses from Buenos Aires! (since yesterday a closed city and country too…)

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