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coronavirus business travel restrictions solutions

Image source: US State Department via Twitter

Companies are cancelling conferences and business travel plans due to concerns over coronavirus, now officially named COVID-19.

Facebook cancelled its F8 conference, its biggest event of the year. Marketers and developers eagerly look forward to the annual conference in hopes of obtaining insights into Facebook’s plans.

A few other conference cancellations include: Facebook’s Global Marketing Summit, Google’s I/O Developer event, and the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s largest mobile phone conference. Other conferences have been postponed or will be held online only.

The cancelled conference list will likely expand. Some companies are deciding not to send employees to conferences, a move that could prompt conference organizers to cancel or postpone events. Twitter, Facebook and Vevo, the music-streaming video company, announced they will not send employees to SXSW, the tech, music and film festival in March in Austin, TX.

In addition, the possibility of the U.S. State Department issuing travel restrictions and more travel advisories hangs over travelers.

Virtual Options to Conferences & Trade Shows

With options for in-person meetings disappearing, companies are turning to virtual events, including virtual press conferences, online meetings and virtual product launches.

Virtual conferences. Already increasingly popular, virtual conferences offer an excellent tool for lead generation and customer acquisition, says David Ly Khim, growth marketing manager at HubSpot. Not limited to webinars, virtual conferences can include interactive, live panels and microsites that present various sessions people can “attend,” Khim explains. Use YouTube Live to broadcast live videos and to host videos to take advantage of its video SEO. Embed the videos on landing pages so people don’t need to leave the website to watch them.

Virtual product launches. With fewer trade shows and conferences available, some brands are conducting virtual product launches. For instance, automakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi, decided to live stream new product launches after the Geneva Auto Show was canceled due to coronavirus, Bloomberg News reports.

More brands will probably livestream product launches on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn, and PR and marketing will rely more on social media to promote the new products.

A virtual Facebook event offers a valuable option in addition to or instead of a live event.  Build on the success of your first event to gain momentum. When you host a future event, look back to your past events and publish a post to invite past attendees to your new event, recommends, Danielle McFadden in Social Media Examiner.

Virtual meetings. While virtual meetings offer a convenient alternative to in-person meetings at trade shows, a lack of visual cues can produce communications mishaps. Video conferencing technologies like Skype and Google Hangouts can improve long-distances communications. Despite improving video conference technology, managing virtual meetings remains challenging. Use people’s names when referring to their earlier comments and maintain a deliberate pace when running the meetings, so attendees don’t lose track of discussions.

Bottom Line: Conferences and trade shows offer a valuable forum for launching new products, learning about industry trends, and meeting customers and business partners. Those opportunities are disappearing due to the coronavirus (COVAD-19) fears. Virtual conferences, product launches and meetings offer a solution.