In these challenging times, Kongres Magazine is trying its best to provide meeting planners with the most relevant and useful information regarding the spread of COVID-19. We also want to share opinions from key members of the meetings industry.

We asked key opinion makers from the meetings industry for their thoughts on the situation and how they are coping with COVID-19.

Jens Oliver Mayer, Jack Morton Worldwide

Take inspiration from the great broadcasters and storytellers – from talk shows and documentaries to TED talks and scripted drama

Q: How do you feel about the restrictions that European governments have implemented to contain the spread of COVID-19?

Each government is doing what it needs to do in this unprecedented situation.

Q: What would you compare this situation to?

Let’s be honest, this is an unprecedented situation and is going to be incredibly challenging for our industry, alongside many others. However, our industry has faced tough times previously and weathered the storm, so whilst this is a situation like no other, it is an industry with the outlook and skills to approach each challenge in an innovative and agile way.

Q: Economic consequences for the meetings industry have already started to show, what do you expect government institutions to do?

Some governments are already putting measures in place to protect jobs and business. This is a very positive move that we’d love to see taken up more broadly – without it many businesses won’t be there to provide much-needed taxes, once we come out the other side of this crisis.

Q: What is your opinion on virtual meetings, as an alternative to live events?

Over the years, we have brought events to virtual audiences and we continue to do so – we’re currently working with a number of clients to pivot events to alternative solutions. This is where it gets interesting for us as there are so many opportunities to tap into emerging tech, content and data to offer limitless creativity and scale. Over the past few years we have been building on our broadcast and content heritage and actively adding eclectic and varied skills to our team to push the boundaries of brand experience, in particular into our innovation practice, Genuine X.

What’s important with virtual meetings is to take a content-rich approach and consider what will make a difference to the in-home experience. Experiential elements can bring that content to life – encourage interaction and game-playing in the programming to increase that feeling of connection and fun. Live streaming is an option, but think beyond a mock-up of a live event – there are many engaging and innovative ways to connect with people. Take inspiration from the great broadcasters and storytellers – from talk shows and documentaries to TED talks and scripted drama – to create on-screen experiences that capture the imagination and inspire your audience, no matter how physically detached they have to be.

Q: What precautions/measures are you taking in your company?

We’re all experiencing a huge adjustment in the way we work. The challenge, of course, is to feel part of a team when everyone is physically isolated. This is something that needs continual maintenance, so high levels of communication (even over-communication) are key – at Jack we’re having daily Teams video chats for each department and regular leadership meetings as well as all-office and all-agency meetings. We’re also making sure we still connect socially – for example within one office this week we’ve run our Women’s History Month celebration as a virtual quiz and had a great turn-out. We’re also continually sharing ideas and tips for working from home and have structures in place to help those that need extra support. Having been through this experience already in Asia, we’re fortunate to benefit from the learnings of our colleagues in our offices in the region who have already been through the experience and are beginning to come out the other side.

Q: When do you think the situation will go back to normal? Are you optimistic about the summer Olympics?

Given everything we’ve seen to date, it would be surprising if it did go ahead, but of course it would be great if the situation changed enough to mean it was possible. We have to be realistic, this is an unprecedented situation and is going to be incredibly challenging for a great number of industries, we are inevitably going to have a new normal once we emerge from the crisis.

Q: Is digital marketing in times of crisis even sensible?

Digital is, of course, the one means of communication that everyone can connect with in these times, but what is important in any form of marketing is to remain highly sensitive to the situation and what people are experiencing. The question is not so much is digital marketing ok, but is what and how you are marketing it ok. It’s key to consider how you can help or add value at this time – that should be the basis of marketing. Brands and agencies that do the right thing now, will see the rewards later.

Q: What will happen after we’ve beaten the virus? How will you (re)start your marketing activities?

We are continuing our activities in response to the business needs of our clients.

Q: Are you in contact with colleagues from around the world? Have you talked about any potential solutions?

As a global agency we collaborate with colleagues around the world on a daily basis in order to create the best work with our clients – this is the way we continue to work.