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Coronavirus: ABPCO provides advice to PCOs

The Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) convened a conference call among its membership, 5 March, to discuss issues organisers may face should the coronavirus crisis worsen.

The UK government has continued with its message of ‘business as usual’, and there has been no indication that conferences and large events will be banned. Public Health England remains the only credible source for guidance and advice.

Association conferences and congresses are on a set cycle and it can be both challenging and expensive to move them. The general consensus among ABPCO members is to red-flag crucial points within terms and conditions, and to go ahead wherever possible.

In notes released to Conference News by the association, it was discussed that ‘hybridisation’ can be introduced to ensure full delegate engagement. “Some universities and hospital teams have been asked not to undertake any unnecessary travel, so a hybrid event can help them to participate,” it was noted.

Live streaming conference sessions is one way to deliver content to a virtual audience.

It was highlighted that communicable diseases, such as coronavirus Covid19, are usually excluded from events insurance contracts, and members are advised to check terms and conditions as they may not be covered unless having paid a premium for an extension in cover.

The notes say: “This extension is likely to be worded that any claim is valid only once there is a ban on public gatherings leading to closure of the venue. No travel insurance will respond to delegates ‘disinclination to attend’ but there will be more cover if the FCO has advised against travel to a certain destination and the policy was purchased before this travel ban. If you are considering postponement, then you need to consider the time-frames as the chief medical officer is suggesting that it will last 5-6 months.”

ABPCO members also discussed communication with venues, and they should be offering reassurance at events to help delegates feel safe. The notes add: “Work with your venues to communicate this to delegates. The advice is that it is no riskier being at an event than anywhere else at the moment. Venues should not be asking the PCO for indemnity if a delegate becomes sick, and if their stay in accommodation needs to be extended. This should be covered by the venue insurance and by the delegate travel insurance.”

The membership was reminded that it may be opportune to suggest that all delegates have travel insurance. 

The notes reveal that venues are generally working with their clients, particularly regular clients, to show some leniency on terms and conditions and to help them to maximise the delegate attendance. 

Elsewhere in the notes, members were reminded of their responsibilities to carry out proper risk assessments and, if running international events, to check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for any travel restrictions. PCOs should also refer to local government advisory services in the country where the conference is taking place.

Members are also advised to ensure they know where their employees are and to take any of their objections into consideration.