Updated Oct 12th, 2023 by Nicolas Zenker
Picture this. You registered to attend an event that will be inspiring and interesting. You add the event to your calendar with all the relevant details. You even managed to sort out childcare for your preschooler because the event is out of town and runs over an entire day.
But a week before the big day, you get an email saying the event was canceled. How would you feel?
Now, imagine if you were in the uncomfortable position of having to cancel an event that your company had spent a long time organizing. Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Even the most empathetic and understanding person is likely to feel frustrated and disappointed.
Of course, frustrated and disappointed clients are not good for your business, so what can you do now? The key here is to politely, positively, and professionally communicate your event cancellation.
How? Our guide is packed with tips, tricks, and even an email template. Let’s dive in!
There can be many valid reasons why a business might cancel an event it has worked on for a long time. Below we look at three of the most common ones.
One big reason why companies find themselves having to scrap an event is because of a lack of attendance. If you had anticipated selling a certain number of tickets to cover the cost of room hire, staff training, your event .ai domain, and other event-related materials, but those sales don’t happen, you have a problem. In this case, companies might cancel the event to avoid a potentially huge loss.
A sudden illness. An irrevocable, last-minute commitment of your keynote speaker. Unpredictable issues with the venue. The list of unforeseen complications can go on. Unfortunately, the only way forward in these cases is to cancel your event.
Extremely bad weather can pose serious risks to the people attending your event, which means that event cancellation is on the cards. Whether you are a provider of small business phone service, a fashion retailer, a tech startup, or anything else, inclement weather conditions such as hurricanes, blizzards, and storms will almost certainly cause your event to be canceled.
When it’s become clear that you’re going to have to cancel your event, you will be dealing with many essential things in fast order. Before you prepare a formal message to notify your attendees of your event cancellation, let’s look at a few aspects you should take care of ASAP.
First, ensure that you immediately stop all event registrations and ticket sales. This is even more important if you cancel your event a week or more before it’s supposed to happen, as people might still want to buy tickets and register their attendance.
If your event is free to attend, you can skip this part. If you still need to, notify your financial team to start processing refunds ASAP. Refunds can be complete or partial, depending on your circumstances. Because a lot of people book tickets through their phones nowadays you should set up support through remote desktop Android applications to help people navigate through the refund process.
For example, if you cancel an in-person event because of bad weather but are moving it online or using a cloud phone system instead, you might want to refund only part of the price. If, on the other hand, you are canceling the entire event and can’t offer any valid alternatives, then a full refund is the way to go.
Another important consideration is letting the public know about your event cancellation. You could take to your social media pages to do this, but remember to update your website and the event’s landing page.
Now that you have taken care of the basics, it’s that dreaded time: you’ll need to let your attendees know that the event is no longer going ahead. While some companies opt for issuing a de-personalized, official, public statement, it’s much better to go the extra mile to show your audience how genuinely sorry you are and how much you care about their disappointment.
Email is one of the best ways to communicate this to your attendees. Just as you put a lot of effort into creating an enticing event description, you should devote the same attention to your event cancellation email.
But how can you structure an email on such a delicate topic? And is there anything specific that you should remember to include? Take a look at our checklist below.
Every great email begins with a crystal clear subject line, so yours should do the same. In the subject line, include the full event name and some important keywords, such as “cancellation.”
You’ll want to greet each attendee in a personal way. Instead of simply writing “Dear Client” or “Dear Guest,” address your recipient using their first name.
The bulk of your email should feature three elements:
Your email should close in a positive and encouraging way, letting your recipient know that you are grateful for their interest in your event and that they will be the first to be notified of any future events.
Want to see the checklist above in action? Here is an email template you can use and adapt to your circumstances.
[Event name, date, and time]: Important Cancellation Update for [attendee’s first name]
Dear [attendee’s first name]
We know just how much you have been looking forward to joining us on [date and time] for the [event name].
At [your company name], we have shared this enthusiasm and worked hard for a long time to put together a top-notch event that would inform, engage, and inspire each and every one of you.
Unfortunately, because of factors outside our control, we are very sorry to inform you that we must cancel the event.
[At this point, it’s up to you whether or not you’d like to provide more details on why your event is not going ahead. In general, we’d recommend giving your attendees a bit of context for them to truly understand that you have done your best to continue with your original event plans.]
We can imagine how disappointed you may feel – canceling a business event with only a few days to go can also have a ripple effect on your personal life. However, we want to assure you of the following:
Once again, we hope you understand that we are just as upset as you are and will do our best to ensure this does not happen again.
Thanks for showing interest in participating in our events, and we genuinely hope to see you soon at one of our future gatherings.
As with any other business challenge, canceling an event can be seen as a way to learn several lessons about your business.
For example, if the reason for canceling your event was somewhat within your control, ask yourself questions such as: “What could I have done to prevent this from happening?” “How can I ensure that this never happens again?” “What backup plan should I put in place next time?”
But there are lessons to be learned even when an event didn’t go ahead due to circumstances outside your control. In these cases, look at how you dealt with the whole situation. Did you take fast action to issue refunds? Did you communicate with your attendees quickly and clearly?
How did they react, and how did you nurture their loyalty and trust in the aftermath?
From poor attendance to unpredictable illnesses and extreme weather conditions, businesses often face the harsh reality of canceling an important event.
If that happens to you, fear not. You can use the tips in this article to help you navigate a tricky situation like last-minute event cancellations and return stronger and more confident.