There’s a whole new section in every dictionary for COVID-19 inspired phrases, and one of the most-used right now is “snap lockdown”. A snap lockdown – the short-term reintroduction of strict COVID-19 restrictions on movement and gathering in a fixed geographic area to minimise the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 – has become a common method for managing COVID-19 outbreaks in Australia, particularly in capital cities. With some snap lockdowns implemented in less than a day, it’s vital to know what one will mean for your event, and what you can do to protect your financial investment and reputation as an event creator.

Snap lockdowns so far

Snap lockdowns have impacted every state and territory in Australia, whether that’s because they have been locked down or because they have closed their borders to “hot spots” or entire states. City capitals and beyond have all been affected by snap lockdowns. They can happen with less than a days’ notice, causing major disruption to small, local events and major events alike. Bluesfest, the globally-acclaimed blues and roots music festival, was cancelled for the second year running while guests were en route to the opening day.

Sadly, there’s no way to pre-empt a snap lockdown. Your best option as an event creator is to regularly monitor your state or territory coronavirus alerts so that you’ll know when cases in the community are increasing at a rate that might trigger a lockdown. Each state or territory COVID-19 hub also has event guidelines, social distancing regulations, and COVID-safe plans that you’ll need in your toolkit.

Cancelling or postponing your event

COVID-safe planning for your event is not just about guest safety and following guidelines. A key part of your plan should be determining if your event will be postponed or cancelled in the event of a snap lockdown, supported by an action plan you can execute quickly if a lockdown occurs to minimise your inconvenience for guests and the financial impact on you.

Whether to postpone or cancel is ultimately dependent on the type of event you’re running and the terms of the lockdown. Key factors to consider include whether talent or other human resources you need for your event will still be available and vendor contract clauses for everything from venues to food. If your event can go ahead, ensure it goes ahead safely and you follow all government regulations.

Well-managed event cancellation is critical to your reputation as an event creator and the success of your future events. As soon as a snap lockdown is called, you should stop selling tickets and enact your COVID-19 emergency plan. Ensure you procure an event cancellation insurance quote in advance of event planning so that you can factor these costs into your budget, too.

If you have to cancel your event and issue a refund, don’t end the line of communication with “would-have-been” attendees there. Maybe you have another event in the works, or will set a date for the event to go ahead on in the future – let them know about it via social media and emails. Sweeten the deal with an incentive like pre-sale access or priority seating so you can minimise financial losses and have attendees lined up for future events. If you’re postponing your event, you can transfer the event to a new date and honour all ticket purchases automatically with Eventbrite.

Head online with virtual or hybrid events

While the COVID-19 situation in Australia is relatively stable and improving every week, safety at large events will remain a concern until widespread COVID-19 immunity is achieved. Keeping that in mind, it’s worthwhile giving careful consideration to event formats that can deliver a valuable event experience without the stress.

Some of the safety requirements for events like social distancing, mask-wearing, and collecting attendee information can add a lot of extra administrative effort and risk. You’ll also need a COVID safe checklist for your event venue to register that plan with the relevant state or territory health authorities if the number of guests at your event exceeds specific thresholds (check your state or territory for the full details).

The alternatives? 100% virtual events, or hybrid events with smaller numbers of in-person attendees mixing with online guests. The benefits? Virtual event technology has come a long way since the start of COVID-19, with features that can make an online event experience better than an in-person one.

Think interactive polls, one-click breakout rooms without going anywhere, or real-time whiteboards for brainstorming from anywhere. Even brick-and-mortar retailers are going virtual, with brands like Anthropologie moving their usual in-store events online and connecting Eventbrite with Zoom for a seamless guest experience.

Hybrid events are growing in popularity: They’re perfect if you need some of your speakers or guests to be co-located for a successful event, and with lower audience numbers you’ll minimise social distancing risks and avoid having to find venues with a specific capacity. If you’re running a virtual or hybrid event, it will also be easier to pivot to a fully virtual event if a snap lockdown disrupts your plans.

Proactively communicating with your ticket-holders

No one wants to be left hanging because of a snap lockdown: creators or attendees. Set expectations in your event listing to give your potential guests peace of mind about what will happen in the event of a snap lockdown.

At a minimum, you should confirm that you have a COVID-safe plan in place and know exactly what your COVID-19 cancellation policy is. In the rare case that there’s community transmission in your area in the days leading up to your event, follow your guidelines, proactively communicate with your attendees about safety precautions you have in place, and address any extra precautions you’re taking to ensure their safety. Reiterate applicable COVID-safe policies like mask-wearing or venue check-in rules to give your guests advance warning about what to expect at the venue and avoid the awkward discussions at the door.

Expecting guests from interstate? Clarify what you can refund for your guests in the event of a COVID-induced no-show (typically the ticket cost only) so they can make flexible or refundable travel arrangements or get insurance that covers COVID-19 emergencies.

Pushing forward to your next event

Be a part of the Australia-wide and global community of creators on Eventbrite navigating COVID-19 daily. List your next event today and know that you’ll have the best resources to help you get through a snap lockdown in your state or territory.