June 12

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Five Lessons From “Return to Play”​ Conversations

By David Millay

June 12, 2020


Would you live in San Francisco without an emergency earthquake kit?Would you raise a family in tornado alley without a basement, cellar, or other safe place along with a family plan for what to do when the sky turns green and the sirens start blasting?

Yeah, I am a “preparer” by nature, but I think most people like to have some sort of plan if there is a chance they might be subject to a natural disaster or emergency.Nobody could have prepared for COVID-19, but everyone should have had a general plan for a crisis of some type. And, again, no one could have prepared for COVID-19, but everyone should have a plan as they look to return to life after it.Specifically, with the highly anticipated and unprecedented appetite for sports, athletic institutions all over the globe need to be readying themselves for what the return to a “new” or “next” normal in their environment looks like.

To that end, the team at EngageMint has been putting together daily zoom calls with universities across the country, gathering to listen to a wide range of subject matter experts, and chat about the many things that we all need to be thinking about when looking through the “return to play” lens.

One major takeaway is that, as an industry, we all need to come together, share ideas, learn from each other, and hope for the success of our peers—sports and entertainment needs to come back, and we all need to be successful.With that in mind, I wanted to share five things that have stuck in my head form the conversations that have been unfolding.

1. You don’t need to be the expert, but you need to seek expert opinions

With COVID19 we are dealing with a public health crisis—and so all of a sudden, we have organizations that are not public health organizations having to institute public health and employee safety measures.LESSON: If you aren’t talking to public health officials and medical partners, and having them help you design your plan…you need to!

2. You can’t plan for everything, but you can plan for anything.

That’s it. That’s the tip.

LESSON: As mentioned above, none of us could have prepared for COVID-19, but we likely had crisis plans in place. Think about how much the world changed after 9/11. No one could have prepared for a tragedy of that magnitude! My guess is that notes were taken from previous crisis plans that guided the strategy to move forward and restore confidence in public events.Also, a great book on this topic is What to Do When Things Go Wrong: A Five-Step Guide to Planning for and Surviving the Inevitable-And Coming Out Ahead by Frank Supovitz.

3. No communication can lead to lack of confidence

Your fans want to hear from you; they want to know your plans, and the want to feel like they are a part of them.

LESSON: If you haven’t sent out a survey or hosted focus groups or virtual town halls with your customers, you’re behind. Start collecting information, piecing data together, and taking appropriate actions NOW! (or a month ago!)

4. We’ve all waited long enough; it’s time to act

Right now everyone is waiting on something, and who knows when or if that something will ever arrive.

LESSON: Be proactive. MAKE A PLAN! No one is going to have the perfect plan; none of us have dealt with a crisis like this before. What’s important is that you have some type of plan that you’ve built for your specific needs, and that is flexible enough to change as things evolve. If not, you will be in a world of trouble. So, don’t wait for someone else’s plan. Create yours and adjust as needed.

5. You don’t know what you don’t know.

Going off the above, nobody is going to come along and present you with answers to all of your problems. If someone tells you they have that solution, it’s highly likely too good to be true.

LESSON: Pretty basic—these are unprecedented times. There is so much that we (as in, everyone on planet earth) have to learn about all things Coronavirus…But there is one thing that is certain, NO ONE has all of the answers.

As a community of sports and entertainment professionals, it’s our responsibility to come together as a group to exchange knowledge. It’s our responsibility to use that knowledge to take care of our fans, athletes, and each other.

As my 3-year-old says, sharing is caring…and we are going to need a lot of both to get back up and running to levels fans expect and deserve.

David Millay

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