The event industry is scrambling to make tough decisions in the wake of the global Coronavirus pandemic.
As an event professional, you’re under a lot of pressure during this time as events are being cancelled, postponed or moved to an online format. This requires re-thinking your entire strategy, cancelling vendors, or trying to get refunds.
Depending on what type of events you run, the process will vary and since this is completely new territory for most of us, the uncertainty and anxiety can be heightened.
In this post, we’re going to break down what you can do in times like these in order to connect with your attendees and essentially unplan and replan your event.
First, decide if you want to continue, postpone, or completely cancel the event.
This is a tough choice to make. Take into consideration factors like the timeline that you have to work with and how it will affect the planning process of future events. If it takes you six months to put a tour together, it might make sense to cancel all tour dates completely. If your event doesn’t take that long to plan and happens frequently, you should consider postponing it until conditions approve.
During this time, most municipalities and nations have outlawed physical gatherings of any size and it is uncertain as to when these bans will be lifted. We recommend you take a more proactive approach and give yourself a buffer of at least 6-8 months.
How to Cancel your Event
Stop all ticket sales & promotions
The first step is to simply stop all sales and promotions for the event. P
ause email marketing campaigns, social media and any advertising or any other marketing campaigns that are running. Talk to your web team to ensure all event communication has no loose ends.
Contact your vendor partners, performers/speakers and the venue to see if you can secure full or partial refunds, back etc.
This is usually the tricky part depending on how close you are to the date of the event. The closer it is, the more costly it will be for you to actually cancel. Normally you won’t get your deposits back, but you also won’t have to pay the rest of the outstanding costs as they are normally compensated for on the day of the delivery provided that the vendor does their part.
* Tip: If it’s really close to your event and the food vendor will not cancel your order because they have already purchased all the ingredients etc; ask them to fill the order and donate it to a local shelter or soup kitchen.
Contact your Sponsors: There are a few strategies you can use here. Your first option should be to ask them, if they would like you to hold on to the sponsorship money for future events, offer them more perks or extra exposure when the next event rolls around. This will help mitigate any losses and also provide money to put into the next event. Unfortunately with this tactic, you will lose money when the next event happens because there will be no new sponsorship, but at least you will have an event.
Contact and inform all Attendees
The best way to do this is either through the event app that you use, or via email. Simply let them know that the event has been cancelled, the reason, and provide a link to your refund policy. You should try to reach them via any channel you have to communicate with them to ensure that they know in order to change travel plans and make the necessary arrangements. Make sure to add a link to your refund policy
Depending on the type of event that you’re running the process will vary. For festivals or large outdoor events, there are many more moving parts and more vendors involved including promoters, affiliates, artists, etc. and the cancelling of these large scale events can be complex.
How to Postpone your Event
Find the right next best time and date for your event.
It might be a good idea to come up with a few ideas here in case your vendors and partners have to manage other events around the same time. That way you’ll have an option that works for everyone.
Contact Vendors, Performers/Speakers, and Venue
Let your vendor partners know of the proposed dates so they will have time to prepare financially and let you know, based on their bookings if they can accommodate you for the changed timing. If not, you may have to request refunds and find other vendors to work with.
They may want to push you to change a date that works best for them, but when you’re working with a lot of vendors, this can become challenging.
Alert your Sponsors
Let your sponsors know of the changed dates, so they too can prepare. This is tricky because some sponsors run particular campaigns at certain times of the year and the timing of the sponsorship falls in line with their marketing strategy. It’s rare, but you may lose some sponsors and will have to find new ones.
Let your attendees know.
After all of the new details have been confirmed, (new date, venue etc. ) alert attendees and ensure that the dates are updated on all marketing materials to avoid confusion. If you have a system that will allow you to do this that’s usually ideal.
Depending on the type of event you’re running, you may also have to option to completely pivot to a virtual model. This can work really well for business conferences and gatherings where speakers have been invited to give keynote speeches. Collision Conference is a great example of how to pivot to this model.