Making the Decision to Postpone Your Event
The global coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on the live events industry. This disruption is something that many event creators worldwide are currently navigating. Our goal is to share best practices from around the world as our community faces this unprecedented time.
Instead of cancelling an event, more and more organisers are deciding to postpone instead. Not only will making this decision help you stay on course, it’ll ensure you have time to evaluate and plan an even better experience. Here are a few simple pointers for postponing an event while managing expectations, as well as keeping your guests informed and engaged.
1. Inform your service providers of your plan to postpone
Your attendees won’t be the only community to be impacted – it’s likely that your contracts and relationships with your vendors will be immediately affected by the postponement. Though they may already be preparing for a change of plans, you’ll need to communicate quickly so you can discuss alternatives that are fair to everyone. Start here:
Look for any eligible rights to reschedule or cancel services: Check your contract to determine which scenarios are covered, and your vendors’ policies around postponement.
Give notice as soon as possible: Some service providers only allow rescheduling within a certain amount of time before the event date. 24 hours is generally considered the minimum amount of notice, but more advance notice is expected if you know sooner.
Check what your insurance covers: If you have event insurance, you may be able to recover some of the additional costs incurred as a result of rescheduling.
2. Inform your partners and speakers
The team you’ve organised to speak, perform, or roll out sponsor brand activations at your event will need to make adjustments to their accommodation, so the faster you can help them get re-accommodated the better. Add these things to your to-do list:
Give immediate personal notice to the sponsors, partners, and speakers travelling to your event.
Discuss preferred alternative dates to determine the best time to reschedule.
If they can’t attend the newly scheduled event, ask for their help to find a replacement.
3. Make the rescheduling announcement publicly and privately
Now that you’ve stopped the sale of new tickets, you can tackle updating your ticket holders. Communicating changes swiftly and clearly will help to relay your commitment to attendees and instil trust in your event brand. Make sure to include the following:
The reason for postponement
The new event date
A link to your brand’s refund policy
How to get customer support
Here’s an example template you can modify:
Dear [ATTENDEE’S NAME],
Due to [LOCAL, REGIONAL, or NATIONAL GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT/ADVISORY] related to the recent coronavirus outbreak, we have made the decision to reschedule our event.
The [EVENT NAME] will be postponed to [NEW EVENT DATE] at [NEW LOCATION].
While it is disappointing to reschedule, we encourage everyone to follow the guidance of the World Health Organisation and local public health officials, and look forward to seeing you at upcoming events.
Best regards, [SIGNATURE] [CONTACT INFO]
Once you’ve crafted a solid message, announce the postponement across all possible promotional channels. For example:
Email: Reach out to everyone who has purchased tickets to update them on your event postponement.
Ticketing platforms: If your ticketing platform includes guest messaging, use it as an efficient outreach tool. Eventbrite offers in-platform messaging that allows you to update guests and schedule email communications.
Social media posts: Listen and respond on social media by paying extra-close attention to your event hashtag. Look out for references to the event so you can reply to mentions, and consider contacting users privately to take care of any public complaints.
Media partners: Just as your media partners help share your event with new audiences, they also serve as convenient outlets to communicate changes and updates.
Top tip for all event creators: Communicate appropriately based on the urgency of the situation. If you are working within three days or less, consider a mass text in addition to social and email. An email and social post should suffice for rescheduled events that are further in the future. Assess the bandwidth of your media partners to report on your postponement within a given period of time.
4. Update your event listing
Now that you’ve taken care of your guests and set expectations, update your listing with the changes. Postponing may have cost you a few guests, but now you have time to sell more tickets for the new date. Make sure to keep track of the refunded and newly joined attendees so you can update event logistics with an accurate number of expected attendees.
Top tip for creators: Take advantage of our simple solution to updating your registration and ticketing settings so the process goes as smoothly as possible.
5. Outline and post frequently asked questions
The easiest way to soften the backlash from upset guests is to clear any confusion and show them you’re on top of it by answering their questions:
Why is the event being postponed?
Where is the information about the rescheduled event, including things like changes to location, speaker line-up, and number of tickets available?
How are you working with participating vendors and exhibitors to help them?
What is your refund policy?
Who should they contact for more information?
Top tip for creators: Post your FAQs directly to your event listing.
6. Engage your attendees online
To maximise the turnout of the reschedule, keep in touch with your audiences online to retain attendance. You’ll want to keep communication consistent so they don’t forget about the new dates and remain interested despite the delay. Strategies include:
Post social content relevant to the event theme.
Invite attendees to a chat group and start online discussions.
Continue event promotion with the new event dates.
7. Bounce back after postponing
Your postponement offers an opportunity to come back stronger and more powerful when you do go live. Get creative in thinking of ways you can thank your guests for their patience. Consider:
Giving discounts to the next event for those who signed up before it was postponed.
Offering a complimentary drink to people who signed up despite the change in plans.
Thanking loyal guests at your next event with reserved seating.
Teaming up with your sponsor to provide VIP gift bags to the people impacted by the change.
Gathering is an essential part of being human. Whether it’s for a live performance of our favourite music artist or networking with other professionals in our industry, events play a crucial role in our sense of belonging.
When circumstances outside your control force you to postpone your event, remember that you were the reason people wanted to get together. And the passion, dedication, and skills that make you an event creator will only serve to enhance your community.