The Day the Conferences Canceled

Wednesday was a grim one for the compliance and audit communities: at least seven industry events were canceled, postponed, or scaled back dramatically, as coronavirus continues to thwart the camaraderie and exchange of ideas that have been the hallmarks of this profession for so long.

Here is the latest list that I’ve been able to compile:

European Compliance & Ethics Institute, hosted by the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics — canceled. The event was supposed to happen March 16-18 in Amsterdam. Registrants can either claim a credit for some future SCCE event within the next 12 months, or receive a refund. The conference will not be rescheduled, but SCCE is working to get at least some sessions delivered online at a later date. 

Global Ethics Summit, hosted by Ethisphere — postponed until later this year. GES 2020 was supposed to happen April 1-2 in New York. Registrants can either claim a credit to some future Ethisphere event, or receive a refund. Ethisphere hopes to reschedule GES for sometime in the fall, although an exact date remains unclear as of today. The brass there also hope to offer at least some of the sessions streamed online. 

General Audit Management Conference, hosted by the Institute of Internal Auditors — streaming online only. GAM was supposed to happen March 16-18 in Las Vegas. All live events have been canceled, but many sessions will be streamed online next week instead. The IIA will be issuing refunds to all registrants for the live event; or if you want to convert your registration to the streaming sessions, let the IIA know by Friday, March 13. You’ll be charged $995 and then refunded the difference. 

Women in Compliance, hosted by C5 — postponed until June. The WiC conference and awards dinner were supposed to happen March 25-26 in London. Now both have been postponed until June 22-23. No word on the website about whether registrants for the original March date can get refunds or credits if they can’t attend the June event. (Also no word on whether the WiC awards winners will be announced this month, or finalists will need to wait another three months.)

Global Privacy Summit, hosted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals — canceled. The world’s largest privacy compliance summit, this was supposed to draw at least 5,000 people to Washington, D.C., April 5-8. So far the IAAP has not said whether it will refund registration fees. It only says “Due to the complexity of this situation, the IAPP is working as quickly as possible on all the elements required to cancel an event. We will communicate more as soon as possible.” 

Those are the national conferences I’m aware of, that all announced cancellations or postponements within the last 24 hours. We also have at least two local events also canceled. 

The IIA Philadelphia chapter’s Fraud Symposium, which is a great event and bigger than one might expect, has been canceled. Was scheduled for March 20. Organizers are looking into rescheduling a future date but nothing specific yet. 

SCCE New York Regional Chapter’s meeting, scheduled for this coming Friday, March 13, has been converted from a live event to a virtual conference. I suspect this is a field test to see whether SCCE can convert future regional meetings to virtual conferences if necessary. 

Canceling is certainly the right move given how serious a threat coronavirus is. Logistically, the events were falling apart anyway as speakers and sponsors had to cancel their own participation, due to employers’ restrictions on travel. So none of this is a surprise. 

Still, canceling a conference is a difficult decision no matter how clear-cut the circumstances. Trade associations are only supporting actors in the field of corporate compliance, but they’re still important ones, and this week’s decisions really suck for them. Spare a thought for those folks. 

We seem to be approaching a time of difficulty and isolation. It’s necessary, but for a community so supportive of each other and eager to talk shop, it leaves one feeling bereft. Here’s hoping our spring of dislocation passes quickly, and we can see each other again soon.

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