So Your Corporate Event Got Postponed… What Should You Do?
by Kalyn Stockman
As much as we love a perfectly executed plan, we can never fully predict what the reality of our world will be like in a month, 6 months, or a year from now. So planning a corporate event months in advance can be, well, challenging.
The outbreak of COVID-19 was especially unpredictable and has brought many new challenges to most businesses out there. Lately, restrictions on travel and gatherings seem to be getting tighter each day. In many places, gatherings must be kept below 50 people. Just this week, the Bay Area announced its ‘shelter in place,’ restricting unessential gatherings of any size.
With new policies and measures put into place to protect the health and safety of the population, major corporate events all around the world have been temporarily cancelled, or rescheduled for a future date. This blog will provide the key steps you must take to successfully postpone (or cancel) your corporate event.
1. Stay Calm
While a sudden cancellation or postponement of a long awaited event can feel earth shattering, this is happening all over the world, and there is a level of understanding and empathy between businesses, attendees, travel agencies, and vendors. Certain emergency situations are out of our control, and the best thing we can do is remain calm and work hard to organize new plans and adjust to the new reality.
2. Pick a New Date or Decide to Cancel
If your event is impacted by coronavirus related policies and can no longer take place as planned, you can likely postpone the event to a later date this year. Remember, many, many companies are postoning events this year, so dates could start to fill up quickly. You’ll want to sit down with your team and create a new timeline for the event ASAP. Brainstorm multiple different dates that could work. (Note: You’ll likely need to postpone all in-person events until at least September.)
You may also consider completely cancelling the event if postponing it is too complicated.
3. Contact Your Event Vendors
As mentioned above, many travel, venue, and catering companies are fully aware of the current situation surrounding COVID-19 and have attempted to set reasonable policies for accommodating changes.
It is important to contact your vendors as soon as possible and be open with them about the situation. However, be sure to acknowledge the amount of impact the coronavirus has likely had on these vendors and respect that they are trying to accommodate hundreds of changes and cancellations as best they can.
Present your wishes to all vendors that were part of your event. If cancelling your event, find out whether you will be able to be refunded. If postponing the event, ask them for their available dates later in the year (or even next year) and be ready to work with them on rescheduling.
4. Inform Your Registrants
Whether you have secured a new event date, or if you’ve decided to cancel the event altogether, it is time to inform your registrants of the change. The most efficient way to do this is via email. The email should include the reasons for the change, as well as any important details they should know. Assure your registrants that the change was made with their best interest in mind. You should also inform your registrants whether they have to re-register for the new event date, or if their previous registration will be carried through to the new date.
5. Consider a Virtual Event in the Meantime
One option that some companies may consider is conducting a virtual event in place of the original event, or an ‘in the meantime’ type of deal. Virtual events allow for participation without that face-to-face contact we are asked to avoid. However, a virtual event might take away a lot of the experience you were so excited to give your attendees.
Virtual events may work well for some companies, but not for others. Talk to your team about the pros and cons of a virtual event and whether it is a good fit for your company. Some factors to consider are:
- What is the goal of the event?
- Can this goal be achieved through an online event, or does it require an in-person experience?
- Did you plan to send your attendees home with any items (gifts, company swag, etc.)? Are you willing to do this through mail?
- Will you miss out on major one-on-one customer interaction opportunities if you move the event online?
6. Adjust Your Event Planning Timeline
Now that you have your new event date secured and have informed the necessary people, it is time to create a new timeline for your event planning. Select new deadlines for event-planning tasks and actions. The event is now likely further off than you expected, so you’ll want to make a detailed plan for the months to follow so that you do not forget any details as the event approaches. Some things you’ll need to set new deadlines for are:
- Sending out event invites
- Creating and ordering items for the event (handouts, banners, nametags, etc.)
- Contacting guest speakers, panelists, etc.
- Contacting vendors
7. Don’t Throw Out Your Event Ideas
You likely already put a lot of thought and hard work into this event, and to have it cancelled or postponed can be very disappointing. Don’t get too discouraged, because the planning you’ve already done does not have to go to waste!
Don’t throw out what you’ve already planned. Store your ideas, designs, and items somewhere safe, and use them for your postponed event (or next event) when the time comes!
We are able to offer this advice from experience, as our Transform Tour events have been moved from April to October. While not ideal, we know that prevention is key and large gatherings should be avoided at this time. For more details on Transform Tour: Boston and Transform Tour: San Francisco, including our new event dates, see our Events page.