5 Tips for Managing Event Cancellations

An empty theater to represent event cancellations

5 Tips for Managing Event Cancellations

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In the past eighteen months or so, we’ve all become pretty good at cancelling events, albeit at great expense to our bottom lines and our sanity! Event cancellations aren’t new, and they happen to the best of us, but since the pandemic, we have collectively witnessed more of them than ever before. As a result, many of our clients have shared some particular dos and don’ts of cancellations. A poorly handled event cancellation can quickly turn into a nightmare, whereas well-done cancellations can actually put a spotlight on the quality of your organization’s reputation and raise your patron’s opinion of you.

Here are five tips we collected for managing event cancellations in a way that positively showcases your organization:

1. Use Clear Messaging

Your cancellation messaging needs to be clear, authentic, and timely. Your message should be as transparent as possible and include necessary details related to refunds or alternative ticket redemption options. Your message must also be consistent when sharing across platforms (i.e. email, social media, organization website, etc.) to prevent any confusion.

2. Reach Out to Your Patrons

Once your team has finalized your messaging, you can immediately begin reaching out to patrons. Make sure to address their refund-related concerns quickly and provide them with any other crucial information related to the cancellation, as well as the reasoning behind the decision to cancel the event.

Here’s a sample email message for an event impacted by COVID-19:

Hi [First Name],

This email is to inform you that this year’s [Event Name] has been canceled in compliance with local COVID-19 regulations. The safety of our attendees, performers, and team always comes first.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and look forward to seeing you at [Event Name] next year.

We are issuing full refunds, and you’ll receive an email within the next X days to confirm your refund. At that point, it will take X business days for your funds to be available for use. If you’d like to donate the value of your tickets back to [Organization Name], we’d be very grateful. Please contact us to donate or ask any questions: [Contact Form Link or Email Address].

Keep an eye out for another email from us with a [Discount, Offer, or Incentive] so you can join us for [Event Name] next year!

Thank you,
[Organization or Event Name]

And here’s another sample message that Broadcast Management Group shared on their blog

“We regret to inform you that due to [specific reason] we have decided to cancel [specific event]. This is not a decision that we take lightly, but feel that this is the best path forward. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience – we’re sure that you’re just as disappointed as we are. We are currently exploring the possibilities of moving [specific event] to a new date and will communicate any additional updates as they become available. In the meantime, check out our FAQs page for more information. Thank you for your understanding and continued support. We hope to see you soon.”

3. Closely Monitor Social Media

After announcing the cancellation, you should closely monitor any event-related social media accounts and hashtags so you can quickly reply with your approved cancellation message when necessary.

4. Keep Attendees in the Loop

Over-communicating is always a good idea amidst a cancellation. Your cancellation message should be on your website, your org’s social media channels, event-specific social media channels, and in all event-related emails to volunteers, staff, patrons, etc. It’s also good to update the media so they can help you spread the word.

5. Offer Incentives to Come Back

Consider offering an incentive or discount for a future event to all attendees impacted by the cancellation to encourage them to return. For example, if the event you are cancelling occurs annually, you could offer a small discount for the following year. 

Cancelling events is never easy, and we’d like to think we’ve all gotten better at dealing with them when they come along. A consistent message, quickly communicated, is the best way to ensure your patrons will keep coming back.