After all the planning that goes into a successful event and all the worries that can surround it, there’s one nightmare that tops the list: It gets postponed—or even canceled. Yet, that was the choice for a huge number of 2020 and 2021 events, both large and small. It’s a tough decision to make, but in the last couple years, many event planners were forced to cancel their large gatherings.
If you’ve ever had to cancel an event, you probably had a lot of questions, especially, “What’s next?”
Event Canceled? Here Are Your Next Steps
Are you thinking about canceling your event, but haven’t made the call quite yet? Bear in mind that while it might be tempting to adopt a wait-and-see approach, it’s better to pull the trigger sooner rather than later. Canceling an event last-minute will almost certainly generate a more negative reaction. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that exhibitors and attendees have to cancel travel and accommodation plans. This means they potentially lose out on deposits and other expenses. The success of your event is your number-one concern, but your exhibitors and attendees are what make your event successful. Make your decision swiftly, then get on with the next steps.
1. Communicate Quickly and Openly
Once you’ve decided to cancel your event, the next step is to tell everyone involved what’s going on. That includes:
- Anyone else involved
Before you take this step, circulate the information internally, to your own staff. Everyone involved at your end should be fully informed before you tell anyone outside the organization.
Use as many different channels as you can to get the word out quickly. This might include:
- Press releases
- Event website updates
- Social media updates
- Email blasts to attendees and others
- Phone calls – To the venue, sponsors, and key providers
Make sure each specific group of people receives information that’s both accurate and pertinent. The information that sponsors and vendors need won’t be quite the same as that which attendees and exhibitors need. Figure out who needs to know what, then focus on getting the information to the right people, so no one is confused.
Important details include:
- The event name
- The event date
- The venue that’s affected by your cancelation
- Whether there are any plans for rescheduling or for an alternate event
- Where attendees and others can apply for refunds
- Where to go for the most up-to-date information for the canceled event and any possible rescheduled or alternate event
- Who to contact for further information
Canceling a much-anticipated event may generate some negative feelings and reactions. You’ll be better able to retain goodwill and support from all participants if you act quickly to disseminate accurate information.
2. Stop Ongoing Preparations
Once you’ve decided to cancel the event, it’s vital that all planning and preparation stops—immediately and completely. This might sound too obvious to mention, but there’s a lot to get done in canceling an event, and there’s a high risk of something being overlooked. Good planning can help prevent this. If you’re fully aware of what’s going on at every stage of the process, you’ll quickly be able to halt anything that’s currently in motion. For instance, if advertising materials are being designed or printed, getting that process shut down right away may save both time and money.
As well as canceling any ongoing preparation, make sure to also stop taking new exhibitor and attendee registrations. Whether this means updating your event website or notifying the sales service you’re using, make sure it’s done ASAP.
Some prep you may need to halt includes:
- Booking a venue
- Designing signage
- Coordinating details with sponsors
- Communicating with exhibitors about set-up and tear-down
- Designing an event app
- Arranging travel for event staff
This is not a complete list, but it’s a good place to start.
3. Get Legal Matters Sorted
An event of any size is likely to have at least one or two legal issues to take care of after canceling. This may include, for instance, filing insurance claims to cover any losses incurred due to the cancelation. If you have insurance policies for your event, it’s important to get the claims process started quickly, in case delays occur.
The second likely issue you’ll need to tackle is any contracts the event has with the venue, vendors, advertisers, and other parties. Both parties will have obligations to meet in the event of a cancelation. Again, getting these processes taken care of quickly is important, especially if you aim to preserve these business relationships for future events.
Your Event Was Canceled—See It as an Opportunity
Thousands of events were canceled in 2020, but thousands of companies are still reaching their prospects and customers. Here are some options for replacing a fully in-person event.
Plan a Virtual or Hybrid Event
You may not be able to hold a physical event, but if you don’t want to outright cancel, there are other options. You might consider taking your event online and making it virtual. Many 2020 events have chosen this option, including the Microsoft Build developer conference, Salesforce World Tour, and New York Comic Con™.
Create Your Virtual Event
Another option is to scale back your in-person event to something smaller and add online components to round it all out. This is called a hybrid event. Learn more about the immense potential of hybrid events here.
Make Use of Prepared Content
Depending on the nature of your event, you might have various kinds of content already prepared—that you’d planned to use at physical event. If it’s appropriate, you might consider making some of it available to attendees at a later date. For instance, if you had planned on distributing marketing materials, why not create a digital version and send it out to your event attendees on social media or by email? If they find the information useful, it may encourage them to register for future events you hold.
Perfect Your Online Marketing Campaign
If an alternative event format, like a virtual event, simply won’t work for you, you risk losing a lot of marketing momentum. The build-up to the event, the event itself, and the post-event marketing, all contribute to the publicity an organization generates each year. If you end up canceling the event completely, you lose that. The flip side is, you free up a lot of time. Why not put it to good use? This could be a great opportunity to work on your organization’s online marketing efforts. For instance:
- Plan out new campaigns.
- Work on the company website.
- Begin regular eblasts.
- Build a company blog.
- Perform a focused series of A/B tests on social media posts and ads.
If You Have to Cancel, Do It The Right Way
Nobody wants to cancel a physical event, but if you’ve decided it’s the best thing to do for your company, take care of the next steps quickly and efficiently. Make sure everyone on your team—and then your sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, etc.—are on the same page. And view it as an opportunity to try something new, like a virtual or hybrid event, that could catapult your business in a new and prosperous direction. This will help preserve your event-related business relationships and retain attendee interest, ensuring your success for the next event you hold.
If you’re ready to learn about what a virtual event could do for you, we’re ready to help. Contact our team at 855-937-2610.