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  • Kristine Metter, MS, CAE

Deciding to Cancel Part 3: The Decision

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.

When you have to make a tough decision quickly, you are faced with numerous challenges that arise in the moment. Today’s excerpt outlines reflections on what worked for these execs and what they would do differently if faced with a similar situation in the future.

Challenges in Making the Decision

  • A compressed time frame and limited or scattered data compounded the decision process.

  • Pulling all the information into a final go or no-go decision was difficult. It proved helpful to have a firm date by which a decision had to be made. This allowed prioritization of activities.

  • Program owners sometimes struggled with setting aside the original meeting design to create something new. Leaders had to push folks to come on board.

  • Trying to simultaneously lead and keep up with the volume of information was tough.

What Worked

  • Open and transparent communication with staff and elected leaders.

  • Clarity about where they were going.

  • The decision to cancel was made as early as possible. People were grateful for having advance notice so they could adapt their plans as needed.

  • The virtual experience design took into account the personal and professional needs of participants.

  • A focus on accessibility through free or low-cost registration fees for the virtual offering and opening the new event to a broad audience of members and nonmembers.

What They Would Do Differently

  • To fully understand the association’s range of exposure, get a better sense from hotel partners and the convention center the best- and worst-case scenarios they are facing.

  • Open lines of negotiation with vendors earlier.

  • Have a better contingency plan.

  • Make the decision sooner.

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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