A few cautious steps now can set you up for event success later

With 179 million Americans under mandatory lockdowns or “shelter in place” orders, and with new restrictions surfacing across the country each day, life as we know it has been majorly disrupted.  It’s not just the current moment – some experts predict that social distancing could remain in place for many months.  Most likely, this means you’ll have to cancel your events.

But before you send out your notices, there’s a few things to consider.  You want to ensure you handle the cancellation gracefully, to maintain a positive relationship with your clients and attendees and set yourself up for success when all the restrictions are lifted.

Follow official guidance – It’s critical that you stay up to date on the latest guidance from national officials and from your public health department and your local government officials.  The World Health Organization’s official website has several resources to navigate this uncertain time.

Go virtual – In some instances, you may have the option of converting your in-person gathering to a virtual conference.  This will depend on a few factors, namely your attendees’ access to reliable internet, the availability of your speakers and/or talent, and your event agenda.  For example, if you were hosting a workshop with a lot of group sessions, a virtual event may not work.

Give clear, concise messaging – When you do cancel your event, be sure to cover all pertinent information in a single message.  This should include: your refund policy, your plans for rescheduling, and the best ways for attendees to get updates about the event’s status.

Update every channel – Be sure to update every media touchpoint with the cancellation information, including social media accounts, websites, blogs, and YouTube channels.

Keep your partners informed – Behind the scenes, make sure this is a decision made in partnership with your client, and put together a contingency plan so that you’ll still have access to your venue, vendors, and other resources once you’re ready to reschedule.

While there are many unknowns during this time, there are still some elements that event planners can control.  Handling your event cancellation with care can ensure you still achieve success when social distancing is a thing of the past.