Leading Through the Pandemic: Generosity + Empathy = Future Brand

This is the first in a series of blogs posts, written collaboratively by our team, which uncover lessons learned in advising our clients on their events in the time of COVID-19.

Over the past 30 days, the VCC team has helped dozens of conference and show organizers with their decisions on how to respond to the pandemic. Although each situation has its own unique issues, we wanted to share some of what we’ve learned to help you with your disruption response and planning.

How your organization and leaders respond in this crisis will have a long-term impact on your members and customers. The best moves we’ve seen so far are:


If you have them, there has never been a better time to use them. Provide the value your members need now without trying to profit. Extend membership three, six or 12 months as an act of goodwill. Don’t underestimate the value of affiliation and act in good faith to sustain long-term relationships.

Unlikely Allies

Don’t waste this crisis. Look for opportunities to partner with the organizations you may normally view as your greatest competitors. Lead the way by creating a big tent and your members will value the role you take on.


Hit the pause button. Everything you communicate should be about caring and helping. If you use retargeting, turn it off immediately or make sure that your messaging is empathetic. This is the time to focus on community building and bringing your profession or industry together. No one wants to be sold to right now.

Program Build

This is not the time to send out speaker approvals or invitations for your annual event if your content is based on submissions. Wait until we’re on the other side of whatever curve we’re on. Do notify submitters of the pause and potential new deadlines.

If your content is mostly curated, take the time to tap into your team, industry leaders and major stakeholders to ensure the program you develop is relevant, timely and future-focused.  No doubt it isn’t business as usual for your attendees, and your content should reflect the enormity of the changes we are all going through and what they can expect going forward.

Your members and customers need you now more than ever. Those that seize this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to strengthen their community, provide virtual support and pivot their planning to help guide their industry forward in our new normal will not only survive, but thrive.

What actions has your organization taken that have had a positive impact on your members/customers?  How have you pivoted your planning for your next face-to-face event? What are some of your lessons learned?

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