COVID-19: Eventrac Update

25 Mar, 2020 05:08 By: Nikki Hawkes

These are challenging times! Our government is encouraging social distancing  in a bid to reduce and slow the spread of coronavirus and their experts are now saying that this may need to be part of our way of life for some weeks (and possibly months) to come.  We all know only too well that with sporting and social gatherings prohibited this is having a huge impact on our event industry and for organisers and participants individually. The myriad of advice being given out daily is sensible advice which we must all heed but the uncertainties inevitably leaves anyone who has a business organising races and events in confusion into what help is out there for them and what they should do with events in the calendar due to be held later in the year.  We may all be facing the biggest challenge event of our generation but we want you to know that the team here at Eventrac is at that start line with you, will try and keep you moving and will be cheering with you when we all celebrate at the finish line too.

We will be spending  some time trying to sift through what has been published to date and outline below some initial practical advice based on the questions we have been receiving from some of you and which we hope will be of some help.  Clearly this is a fast moving landscape of advice and you are advised to keep monitoring reliable sources such as the NHS, Gov.UK, BBC and the WHO .

This update is in two sections - Part 1 deals with event organisation generally and Part 2 signs post you to some business advice too (which may or may not be relevant to your business circumstances).

Part 1 - The Practical Stuff

What should I do if I have events listed on Eventrac but am not sure what to do in the light of the government announcements?

Protecting people is critical but we encourage you not to lose sight of protecting your reputation too! With imminent events already cancelled and uncertainty about those later in the year,  then the when and how you notify your participants will leave a lasting impression with them. If you want returning business when this crisis passes – and it will pass - it will be extremely important to keep them informed and give them as much customer care as possible from the perspective of early notice, clarity and simply staying in touch with your audience.  Please make sure you let the Eventrac team know as soon as possible what events you have already cancelled or postponed and either update your page yourself or ask us to do so. Please also make sure that you mirror this on your own website if you have one. If you want to send out a bulk email to your opt ins we can help you do this but ask again that you give us as much notice as possible, as we are extremely busy trying to help all of our organisers at the moment.

What should I do if I decide to postpone my event?

If you want to postpone and have date in mind then you will need to follow all the normal steps for staging the event, but before you go firm on the date you will need to contact your local authority (if you have already got a license – they may agree to transfer it).  Don’t raise hopes and then dash them if you do come up with an alternative date make sure it is realistic – keep your participants informed and be clear that due to circumstances beyond your control there are no guarantees and make sure they have your contact details to raise queries.

What are the steps for cancelling my event?

1. Communicate and stop taking bookings
If you’ve truly exhausted every avenue available to you and you must cancel, then the first thing you have to do is communicate this to your registered attendees/sponsors and stop accepting new ones. Update your eventrac entry page to close bookings, and update your website to reflect the situation and your event cancellation with all the information a participant will need to understand the situation. 

You don’t need to provide all of the answers immediately, but you do need to assure athletes registered for your event that you have their best interests at heart. This is also a useful tactic to use when there are last-minute weather events. Telling people that you are working on it is reasonable. Give them a time frame and try to stick with it, if you can give longer notice all the better so your attendees are less likely to have made travel plans or booked hotels, etc. Carefully consider the way you deliver information about event cancellation to reduce the risk of receiving hundreds of emails with the same question. It also helps to create a page of FAQ's that you can link in your emails to direct people towards.

Be sure that everyone has received your message – it is your responsibility to get this critical information to everyone – so you might want to include a quick ‘yes/no’ survey inviting a response to confirm they’ve received and read it. And last but not least, proof your emails by others! 

2. Provide a reason
It can be frustrating to hear that something has been cancelled and not be provided with a reason. You can be as detailed or as brief as you feel is right, but providing a concrete reason will help your attendees better understand your decision. It may well help your event be more successful in the future, as you’ll probably get support from your community to help the event go ahead. 

3. Update your refunds policy
In light of the situation, this is also a good time to update your event refunds policy, which you can use to point participants to who are demanding a refund to streamline your email communications.

Usually for an event cancellation, you should offer a full refund if you charged for event tickets.. In the case of the coronavirus, this situation is out of your control and therefore offering an alternative may be more widely accepted. For example offering race deferrals for all entrants to the following year can be done by moving all entrants to the new date in a few clicks on your Eventrac platform.

4. Work with suppliers
Remember that your decision to not go ahead with the event will affect others too, such as your suppliers. Contact them as soon as you possibly can to let them know the news. The sooner the better, because you might still be able to negotiate on any money you owe them. If they’ve not actually supplied you with goods or services, you may be able to pay just the deposit.

However you should be aware that they may also have passed on other business opportunities because they were committed to your event, so you should be fair. It’s important to build strong relationships in the industry, so burning bridges and refusing to make good on congrats or agreements is rarely a good long-term strategy.

5. Maintaining Sponsor Support
Event partners such as running clubs, goodie bag sponsors and financial supporters should be prioritised in your updates as a matter of courtesy. It’s your job to make them feel special and appreciated, whilst also liaising with them where necessary around event logistics before deciding on a new date. When the new date is announced to the public, they will feel appreciated and valued for being your first line of contact. From there, make sure you keep communicating with them so you can realign your plans to support them through product promotion, brand recognition and so forth to instill loyalty.

Would staging a virtual event work for me and how would I go about that?

Vetting other options to allow displaced athletes to race in 2020 can include putting on a virtual race - We urge you to explore all avenues. As virtual races increase in popularity we are looking at how eventrac can help you deliver your event online. With no events able to proceed in the immediate future, but independent running still being an option, giving your participants an alternative challenge to complete whilst still rewarding them with race bling can be supported through our results system. Exercise is being encouraged individually or in very small co-habiting family groups and the government are stressing how important it is to stay healthy.  This could be a great opportunity to diversify and gain a little experience in the virtual event world. You must observe all the topical recommendations and don’t encourage people to gather but with all the inter-connecting digital technology now its still possible to inject some purpose and challenge into the psyche of your participants to keep them motivated.  If you are considering setting a virtual challenge then get in touch with us and we can guide you through the process. The psychology of the nation is adapting to this circumstance and perhaps the driver of getting outside and keeping fit is becoming far more important than getting a medal so think creatively about how you could reward someone in other ways for their achievement ie a discount code for a future mainstream event, a paper certificate that can be easily printed and emailed.    We are seeing reports of people doing marathon distances in gardens and even on balconies (although the latter would not be our recommendation given the health and safety implications!) but nothing is impossible for those determined it seems.  

What can I do to retain a following for my normal events?

Keep in touch with your participants, and maintain the “team/club community spirit” :-

  • Send a regular e-newsletter – communicate, communicate, communicate – technology will play now play an ever greater role in keeping in touch
  • Keep your facebook, twitter and Instagram sites fresh and include special interest and motivational content so you get views, likes and shares. This is important so that when your events are ready to re-launch, you have a receptive audience. Creating adverts thereafter will prove more effective with this attention.  
  • Encourage participants to post on your facebook or Instagram page, sharing with each other how they are retaining their fitness levels and morale
  • Encourage blogging and post topical articles such as healthy eating, recipes, training in a confined space, core strength focus etc etc
  • Encourage solo training (cycling, turbo training, early morning/late night runs avoiding people) 
  • Consider organising a Virtual Event.
  • Offer discount codes
  • Encourage route sharing (Strava, Komoot) that people can log for future use.
  • Keep  your team or groups in the loop – use teleconferencing, WhatsApp, Zoom, etc  
  • If you are a qualified personal trainer or have one on the team, consider staging exercise video sessions  Keep in touch with your sponsors and suppliers – they may be struggling businesses too, so see how you can help each other.
  • Do something to be memorable – what you do now as a business will leave a lasting impression and legacy for your business future.  This may be highlighting a social cause or helpful (even unrelated to an event) post that may be useful at this time.

I’m worried about the future of my business?

That’s understandable – everyone will be concerned at this difficult – but do try and stay positive.  We’re rooting for you and want to help you get through this. We encourage you to stay focussed on the future and to help we will be putting out blogs and articles that may help to reassure.  Keep busy. Put this time to good use and tackle all those admin tasks you didn’t previously have time to do, re-engage with lost contacts, address your business planning, think ahead, write your marketing strategies, keep planning ahead and most important of all stay stress-free, fit, well and healthy.

Part 2 – Currently Available Business Advice Services etc*.

Whilst many Race organisers may not be operating their businesses as limited companies, some of the information* we have gathered below therefore may not be relevant, but we have included it anyway you will know someone else who does run a limited company so may be able to forward on.  It is a fast moving situation and the advice is changing daily so do keep yourself up to date before making difficult decisions.

  • For individual businesses, the first port of call for advice and support is gov.uk. 
  • HMRC have launched a tax helpline to help businesses concerned about paying their tax due to coronavirus (COVID-19). Find all the information here. The number is 0800 0159 559. 
  • Companies House has produced guidance if coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected your company and you need more time to file your accounts. Find all the information here.
  • For the latest information and advice, employers and business owners should visit guidance for employees, employers and businesses. Check the page
  • A recent .Gov announcement has been made that will help a huge number of freelancers allowing them to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed.regularly for updates and subscribe to receive email alerts 
  • Information on the support available to businesses impacted by COVID-19
  • ACAS has published information for employees and employers, including information on simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff, sick pay and absence from work 
  • A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41m to apply for a loan of up to £1.2m, with the Government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. This will unlock up to £1 billion pounds to protect and support small businesses.  https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/supporting-business-loans-enterprise-finance-guarantee/  
  • For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the Government in full. This will provide 2 million businesses with up to £2bn to cover the costs of large-scale sick leave.    
  • A VAT payment deferral will apply from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020.  This applies to all businesses who are registered for VAT.
  • If you pay a mortgage and may be financially disadvantaged during this crisis you may be able to apply for a mortgage holiday ie deferring payments for 3 months.
  • For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021.  
  • The Chancellor announced that Cash grants are being offered but eligibility is dependent upon the individual business circumstances, ie if you don’t have business premises or pay business rates you may not qualify.  There are regular updates and a call for more help to assist freelancers and sole traders so do keep following the advice. 
  • We would like to thank you for your ongoing support and loyalty to Eventrac and look forward to helping you promote and grow your events in the future.

*The information contained in this communication has been taken from third party  sources at the time of writing and is shared in good faith for our organisers. However we advise that you substantiate the current advice before taking decisions that may affect your business as we cannot guarantee that the content is accurate or topical going forward. 

Helpful  advice released by governing bodies amongst running, cycling, triathlons and more:

On Hand To Help

The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.