Contingency Plan — How to Respond When Your Event Gets Canceled

As event planners, one of our mantras is to, “Expect the unexpected.” And while none of us could have predicted the onset of a global pandemic, we want to encourage you to not panic!

Easy enough to say, we know.

But panic rises from fear of the unknown. And while you cannot control meeting and event cancellations, you can ease your fears of lost revenue by putting a solid plan of action into place.

First things first.


1. Review the fine print. If your event is canceled, you will want to examine all contracts with stakeholders and discuss procedures.

• Will they need to refund attendees’ registration fees?
• Reimburse for attendees’ airfare or hotel costs?
• Compensate for costs accrued by exhibitors or sponsors?
• Will your hotel or venue offer reduced termination penalties if you cancel early enough?
• Does the contract’s force majeure clause apply?
• What about your fees?
• Is there Event Cancellation Insurance, and will it cover any or all of these losses?

Make sure you’ve reviewed all your legal documents and obligations thoroughly.

2. Suggest an alternative. Reach out to existing clients who may be considering cancelling or have already canceled. Tell them you’ll be happy to explore alternatives to their in-person meeting or event if applicable. Brainstorm ways they could continue with their event in a virtual capacity.

Are stakeholders open to rescheduling the event to a later date? With so many events canceling or rescheduling it would be wise to book a venue now before they become scarce.

Most importantly, reach out to sponsors, vendors, and attendees early and honestly. While cancelation or rescheduling may be disappointing or disruptive, they’ll appreciate receiving reassurance directly from you as soon as possible.

3. Software solutions. Webinars, live streaming, and virtual meetings are not only a great response to “social distancing,” many attendees prefer them to in-person meetings or conferences. You can even use chat room groups for breakout sessions.
If you proceed with a virtual event, make sure it’s recorded so that people who cannot “attend” the live session have an opportunity to access it at a more convenient time.

The following streaming services are free and simple to use:

a.    Zoom Meetings — Lets you host up to 100 participants. The on-screen whiteboard feature allows you to brainstorm with participants in real time.
b.    Skype — Allows you to conduct both screen and document sharing, as well as post a poll and hold a Q&A session.
c.    Facebook Live — Good for all types of events with its wide audience appeal (1.59 billion daily users) and low technical requirements.
d.    Periscope — Followers are instantly alerted when you go live. Questions or comments can be sent via chat.
e.    YouTube Live — Easy to set up and broadcast professional quality video. All streams under 12 hours are automatically archived.
f.    Instagram Live — Best suited for a younger audience, Instagram Live allows you to engage with followers in real time via comments.
g.    LinkedIn Live — Allows you to broadcast video content to your network in real time.

In your down time

While you may find you have some spare time on your hands at this time, try to stay positive and industrious. A quart of Cherry Garcia and a ten-hour Netflix binge may sound appealing, but there are many more productive ways to spend this unexpected down time.

4. Work on your business. Attend virtual networking opportunities. Update your LinkedIn profile. Reach out to past customers and let them know you’re ready to help them out when this time has passed.  Beef up your own website. Develop an email campaign. Promote your business on social media. Start a blog or update your existing one. Perform all those tasks that you’ve been putting off forever because you’ve been too busy to get them done.

5. Earn some credits. There are multiple ways to virtually earn Continuing Education Credits. Look for webinars, forums, on-line lecture series, or other certification programs that will work to better your professional standing in the industry when things pick up again.

6. Don’t forget about self-care. Social distancing can feel isolating as well as stressful. Make a point to take time each day to do something that will foster your health and improve your state of mind—yoga, walking, jogging, meditation, reading, drawing, bubble baths, herbal tea, dancing or working out to YouTube videos, and yes, an occasional Netflix binge is okay too!

Most importantly, remember, “Even the darkest night will end, and the sun will rise.” ~ Victor Hugo.

Kris McNeely, Content Editor | meetingpages |

As a freelance editor and writer for more than twenty years, Kris McNeely has had the opportunity to write and edit everything from non-fiction books to blog posts, web content to white papers, ads to articles. She was named an Erma Bombeck Humor Writer of the Month, has been featured in multiple anthologies, and was selected by Amtrak Railway Service as one of five travel writers from among a pool of 1500 applicants nationwide. In her free time, she likes to jog, garden, travel, and spend time with her two kids and three grandchildren.