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When is it better to cancel or postpone an event?

  • Tips

“Never, never, never!” – for sure that would be the answer of every conference or training course organizer who in the sweat of his brow planned and prepared for the event. Especially when the registration process was successful and the list of attendees is long.

However, there are situations in which postponing or canceling an event is the way to avoid a catastrophe. And although this is not an ideal solution, it may turn out to be the only reasonable one.

Safety first and foremost

If there is any risk that attendees in your event may be in any kind of danger, you must seriously consider the cancellation or postponement of the event. Natural disasters, all security considerations (the risk of a terrorist attack, the threat of a construction disaster, a shortage of personnel responsible for the safety of participants) are an absolute indication that such a decision should be taken.

Although it isn’t easy, it is better to deal with disappointed participants than with the effects of a disaster.
Remember that even this seemingly hopeless situation can be used to build trust with your audience.

No way to fulfill your promise

If the price of your conference or training course includes valuable training materials, a star performance, additional attractions, etc., and a few days before the event you already know, that it won’t be possible to fulfill your promise – think about postponing the event. Remember that the description of the event and its offer is a “sacred thing” – if you’re not able to deliver on the promise, and provide the participants with what they paid for (or the equivalent of it), you run the risk of disappointment and loss of trust.

Remember that it is better to cancel the event until you are ready to live up the vision you offered than – with full awareness – not to meet the expectations of your customers. The price of rebuilding a tarnished reputation may turn out to be much higher than the cost of postponing the event.

Social reasons

If a national tragedy or other disaster strikes public opinion just before your event, consider whether the continuation of the event is simply in a good tone. Canceling or postponing the event can be an opportunity to show social sensitivity and care. If the type of your event allows it, you can consider leaving its original date with the proviso that profits from it – though in part – would be transferred to the victims.

The event can not take place at the planned localization

Have you ever received a chilling call from the hotel manager in which he apologizes, but must inform you that the conference room you have booked will not be available? And at the time when you already have a set of reservations for an event…? What can you do in this situation?

First – keep breathing, secondly – assess the situation. Think whether there is enough time to find another place. If so, start by searching for a location nearby, so that the change would not be drastic for guests or exhibitors. Try to think out of the box: maybe there is a place – not necessarily a hotel conference room – which would fit your criteria? If there is none, the event must be postponed. In this situation, you can offer a discount for a new date.

Remember, always communicate with participants as quickly and often as possible. You do not want someone to go to your event on a wrong day!

Postpone or cancel an event – that is the question

Your event can’t take place as planned, but should you cancel or postpone it? Which choice is better? Decide to postpone the event if there is a problem with the date, place or providers. But most likely you will have to cancel it if there is a security or budget issue that you can’t resolve within a few weeks of the original date.

How to manage a crisis?

If you’re postponing the event:

  • ensure that each participant has been notified that the event will not take place on the original date
  • explain the reasons why you were forced to make such a decision as an organizer
  • propose a new date and place
  • offer a refund – your new event date or location may not be suitable for everyone

If you are canceling an event:

  • ensure that each participant has been notified that the event will not take place on the original date
  • explain the reasons why you were forced to make such a decision as an organizer
  • start making a refund as soon as possible

Remember that unexpected problems are an inevitable part of the everyday work of event organizers. Many problems can be overcome, some will force you to postpone or cancel the event, but even this situation – well managed – can be used to build trust in your brand.