• Kristine Metter, MS, CAE

Deciding to Cancel Part 1: Data In - Communication Out

We have documented how three association executives navigated the difficult decision to cancel their in-person annual conference this spring. In a series of posts, we will share a number of lessons learned.

To start off, let's look at two cornerstones of making critical decisions—data and communications. We discussed what data sources and metrics informed their assessment and how they communicated throughout the process. Here are their insights.

Information and Metrics

  • Everyone became news junkies and monitored key agencies such as the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and international/state/local governments.

  • Quantifiable data was important. Two examples are: (1) A trackable downturn in registrations and hotel room bookings coupled with an escalation of cancelations and inquiries. (2) Data from recent surveys on participants’ interest in a virtual meeting.

  • The cancelation of other association meetings served as trigger points and a sign that immediate action was needed to stay in front of the developing situation.

  • The network of association executives and functional peers proved to be useful sources of information and counsel.

“We are blessed with a team of professionals who are well networked with their peers in other associations, so we’re all about understanding best practices and trying to be an exemplary organization.– Tom Menighan, American Pharmacists Association

External Communication

  • It was important to manage the timing and content of external communications through official channels.

  • They communicated early and often, using all available channels such as website, social media, and blast email. A vacuum of information led to people creating their own narratives.

  • Messaging didn’t have to be perfect. Just get something out the door.

  • As long as there was regular communication, most people understood that information was changing rapidly.

  • Member leaders were often sought out by their own networks and asked to comment.

  • A single voice to all vendors and contractors assured a common understanding of the current status.

Many thanks to the following individuals for sharing their experiences.

  • Shawn Boynes, FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association for Anatomy

  • Tom Menighan, BPharm, MBA, ScD(hon), executive vice president and CEO, American Pharmacists Association

  • Chris Urena, MBA, CAE, chief learning officer, Endocrine Society

For additional insights, see the full article.

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