COVID-19 has led to the cancellation of many events around the world. Whether you have chosen to postpone or cancel an event outright, it can be a nightmare trying to get the message out. As an event organizer, though, you can find ways to manage such postponements in an orderly manner. People will expect this in the age of COVID-19, as we see fears of community transmission on the rise. Below, we have outlined several tips on how to deal with your event postponement to make it easier for you, as well as your attendees.
Consider the Digital Option
Many event planners are looking at hosting virtual events that Toronto attendees will appreciate. Moving your event from a physical venue to an online option could work for many different scenarios. While it might seem that people will not be thrilled with this idea, remember that we have all adapted to doing things differently during the Coronavirus crisis.
In fact, attendees might appreciate your efforts to allow them to still attend an event when they are stuck at home during the pandemic. For example, a conference featuring keynote speakers can stick to the same schedule and have the speakers live stream their presentations from home.
Fundraisers can use Facebook as their base, and people can report in with their donations. Even a marathon can have people choose a route in their neighbourhood and track their progress to be shared on social media. Just keep in mind, however, that in situations where people have paid to attend your event, you could face fallout with some feeling they have not gotten their money’s worth.
Postpone to a Later Time
While this might not work for outdoor events, you can certainly speak to your venue for indoor events to try to arrange a date later in the year. Once a date is arranged, you can reach out to attendees and let them know about the new arrangements. If your date was a paid-for event, you will have to have a refund policy for those unable to attend the new date.
Contracts with Suppliers
Don’t overlook the legal implications of cancelling or postponing an event. You probably have a few agreements in place that will have to be considered, such as venue rental, leased equipment, entertainment, keynote speakers, etc. Review all contracts to determine what is involved with cancellations or postponements. Common clauses would include:
- How much notice must be given for cancellation
- Costs associated with cancellations
- If COVID-19 existed at the time the contract was signed
- If delays, postponement, or substitutions are allowed
- Whether you can be reimbursed for deposits
Most venues and services have made special arrangements to accommodate the cancellations that are out of your control. Discuss your options and see if your postponement will allow you to simply choose a new date that hopefully suits the schedules of all your suppliers.
These are unique times, which means companies involved in event services are faced with some hard business decisions. They are losing business, yet they also have to be reasonable when it comes to cancellations and refunds. Because you are postponing instead of cancelling, you should be able to negotiate for the money you have deposited to be applied to your new event date. In the case of other services that will not align with your new event date, there is a chance you may lose the money you have paid for upfront.
This, combined with having to refund the cost of tickets for those who can’t attend the new event date, could make holding the event in the future financially unmanageable. Therefore, you have to weigh all the associated costs and losses by holding the event on a new date to determine if you will still come out ahead. Some considerations to reduce losses might include:
- Holding a virtual event on the original date
- Insurance coverage for the event that might alleviate some of the costs
- Comparing costs to reschedule versus cancellation
Best Practices for Event Postponement
Once you decide postponement is your best option, you can use the following list to ensure you cover all of your bases:
- Contact all involved parties providing services for the event to ensure you are not breaching the contract if you decide to postpone.
- Consider which services will have to be replaced due to conflict of interest in scheduling your new date.
- Respect all notice deadlines you have with your event contracts to avoid further charges.
- Ensure you are adhering to ticket refund rules and that refunds are offered promptly for those who are unable to attend the new event date.
- Consider offering alternate events in lieu of refunds, if possible.
- Make sure all communications are in writing so you can show all efforts were made to accommodate attendees, services, contracted vendors, etc.
- Ensure all attendees are kept informed of the new dates and times, as well as any changes that had to be made such as entertainment, activities, speakers, timing, menus, etc.
There will be some event planning and organizing needs unique to your event that you should try to identify early on. This way, you can add these tasks to your to-do list, so nothing is missed.
Although COVID-19 is posing challenges for event planners, with a little ingenuity and organization, you can still hold an exceptional event at a later date.