As we write this, the world is gripped by a global pandemic of novel coronavirus COVID-19. In this time of global uncertainty, many conveners are asking themselves whether or not they should cancel or postpone their convenings–and not just in the immediate future (that answer is clear: given the current state of COVID19 in much of the world, essentially any in-person convening at the time of this writing would be deeply irresponsible) but many months down the road. Any time there is a global or local health crisis, it’s important to ask yourself whether the benefits of convening in-person outweigh the risk it could pose. Below, we have outlined seven good reasons to cancel your event. 

It’s important to note that this list is not comprehensive and that guidelines from local, national and international (CDC, WHO, etc.) public health agencies should always take precedence. 

GOOD REASONS TO CANCEL

  • You have attendees coming from highly-impacted areas – At the moment, that would be the entire world. But in other outbreaks (or if this coronavirus turns out to be seasonal) it’s important to evaluate whether you have individuals coming from areas where there is a greater chance of them carrying the infection to less-affected communities. If this is the case for your convening, think about creative ways you could engage those individuals through virtual convening
  • Your event is deeply global. If, for example,  you have people coming from 100+ countries, carrying on in the face of an outbreak is unwise and (we would argue) socially irresponsible. The greater the number of people coming from different countries, the greater the risk is of reinforcing global spread. . In this case, think about how you could create more locally-focused convenings. 
  • Your event is large – Similar to the point above, the greater the number of people concentrated in one place, the greater the risk of passing an infection to the broader community. In this case, it’s always a good idea to postpone or cancel your event. Where that threshold is; 1000, 100, or 10, depends entirely on the state of the health emergency.  
  • Your venue is in a highly-impacted area – This goes without saying, but if your event is scheduled to take place in an area that is already known to be affected, you are placing a huge risk on your attendees by carrying on with your convening there. In this case, it’s a good idea to cancel your event or see if you can find a venue in a different area. 
  • Your attendees must travel through a highly-impacted area to get to your event – Any travel increases the risk of both contracting and spreading infectious disease. Map the common travel pathways for your attendees (flight connections, trains, etc.) to see if it would be prudent to cancel your event. 
  • Public health resources are saying they are overwhelmed – Obviously if local public health officials are asking the greater population in your area to not convene large numbers of people, it would be irresponsible to host your convening in that area at that point in time. 
  • Your event is targeted at a high-risk population (An example in our the current situation would be attendees over the age of 60) Keeping attendees safe is one of the greatest mandates of any convener. Knowing who in your population could be most at-risk and finding ways they could participate virtually will help keep them, and others safe. If the majority of your event is targeting a high-risk population, consider canceling or switching to virtual convening.