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Event Cancellation: A Guide to Communicating the Message Gracefully

Event Cancellation: A Guide to Communicating the Message Gracefully


May 10, 2024 Praggya Joshi

"Event canceled" - these words often strike fear into the hearts of attendees and organizers alike, especially the latter who would do anything to avoid them. Yet, despite meticulous preparation, some circumstances remain beyond our control. Consider, for example, the global pandemic of 2020. It thwarted the efforts of countless event organizers and planners worldwide. But could it have been prevented? Certainly not. 

Event cancellations, though unfortunate, are a common occurrence in the event planning landscape. The key to mitigating the disappointment they bring is to handle them with grace and transparency. A well-crafted cancellation announcement, presented professionally with a sincere tone, is something every attendee values. 

In this blog, we'll outline the precise steps, complete with examples, to craft such communications.


The Best Approach to Break the News to Different Stakeholders
Your method of communicating event cancellation to different stakeholders should be different. Firstly, identify all the key stakeholders who require notification, including event chairs, attendees, sponsors, vendors, exhibitors, and local media outlets. Utilize personal phone calls to notify the most significant stakeholders, such as vendors, exhibitors, and key sponsors. Politely and comprehensively explain the reasons for the cancellation and outline the steps being taken in response. Be prepared to address any questions or concerns they may have, and schedule calls at times when you anticipate they will be available. 

For less critical groups, such as general attendees, utilize a combination of email and phone calls for communication. If phone calls are not feasible, consider scheduling an email along with an SMS notification. For a more personalized approach, designate a team to make brief phone calls to inform general attendees. Additionally, ensure to post the cancellation news on your social media profiles to reach a broader audience. 

To inform local media about event cancellation, draft a press release outlining the details and reasons for cancellation. If the event had been previously covered in a local newspaper, contact the publication directly to retract the story and provide updated information.


1. Communicating Event Cancellation via Phone 
Communicating event cancellations via phone calls is essential when informing significant attendees such as VIPs, dignitaries, vendors, or exhibitors. To make it effective, it's crucial to approach the conversation with empathy, transparency, and positivity. Before making the calls, it's advisable to jot down the reasons for the cancellation to ensure clarity and coherence during the conversation. 

When delivering the news, empathize with the recipient's potential disappointment and demonstrate transparency by providing a clear explanation for the cancellation. Additionally, maintain a positive tone and offer options for refunds or rescheduling to mitigate any inconvenience caused. When communicating with stakeholders, it's important to inform them of the steps being taken to minimize the impact of the cancellation on business reputation. 

During the conversation, remain patient and address any questions or concerns the recipient may have, ensuring that they feel heard and valued. By adopting these approaches, you can effectively convey event cancellations while maintaining professionalism and goodwill.


2. Event Cancellation via Social Media  
You can also communicate the cancellation of your event through digital channels, such as your event website and social media platforms. To effectively convey this message, craft a concise, clear, and direct cancellation announcement. Ensure this message is prominently displayed on your social media profiles as well as event website. It's also essential to ensure that everyone within your organization uses the same messaging when communicating the event's cancellation across platforms. Additionally, remain vigilant about monitoring mentions of your event or its hashtag on social media platforms after the announcement has been made.


3. Communicating Event Cancellation via SMS
An event cancellation SMS should be brief, clear, and tailored to the recipient. It's best to send SMS shortly after deciding to cancel the event and halting ticket sales. Consider displaying the news on your event app as well. However, it's not advisable to rely solely on SMS to communicate with significant stakeholders. Instead, use SMS in conjunction with phone calls and emails. 

Your SMS should begin with a friendly greeting, followed by the cancellation announcement. Briefly explain the reason for cancellation and offer sincere apologies. Provide clear instructions on the next steps the recipient should take. Before signing off, include links to your website and FAQs page for further information. 

Here's a sample template for communicating event cancellation via text message: 

Hi [Recipient's Name], 

We regret to inform you that our [Event Name] scheduled for [Date] has been canceled. This decision was made due to [briefly state the reason]. You will receive a full refund according to our policy. Please find detailed refund information here: [put link to the refund information page of your website]. 

For any further assistance, contact us at [Contact Number] or [Email Address]. 

Best regards, 

[Your Name/Organization]


4. Communicating Event Cancellation via Email 
Emails are the most common method of communicating with attendees. When it comes to event cancellations, a well-crafted email can significantly reduce negative reactions.


1. Keep Your Email Subject Lines Simple and Clear
Your email’s subject line should promptly convey the critical message in a clear and direct manner. Keep it simple and concise, avoiding unnecessary wordplay. Remember that you’re giving a news that may have a significant impact on attendees. So be careful while crafting the subject statement. Also, ensure that it isn't overly lengthy. Here are some examples you can utilize: 

  • "Important: Event Cancelled" 
  • "Event Cancellation: Apologies" 
  • "Update: (Event Name) Cancelled" 
  • "Cancelled Event: (Date)" 
  • "(Event Name) Cancelled - Apologies" 

Avoid sugarcoating the news, especially if there are no plans to reschedule.


2. Explain Reasons for Event Cancellation
Next, let's address the email body. Concentrate on elucidating the reasons behind the event cancellation. Remember, you made this decision due to valid reasons that were beyond your control. So, instead of excessive apologies, provide an honest explanation of the primary factors influencing this decision. 

Take a cue from how IMEX Frankfurt announced the cancellation of their trade show that was scheduled for May 12–14, 2020. 

'This (Cancelling the event) is not a decision we have taken lightly and there are two overriding concerns that have caused us to make this decision at this time. 

First is the uncertainty caused by the fact that the German health minister has recently called for the ban on events with over 1,000 people which some German states have already endorsed, including the state of Hesse where Frankfurt is located. This announcement makes the probability of factors outside our control forcing us to cancel the show at the last minute much higher. 

Second, our primary concern is always the responsibility we feel towards our exhibitors and partners, who fund the show – not only by purchasing stand space but also in the considerable additional investment they make in everything from the build of stunning stands to the hosting of buyer events… 

Their message clearly outlines the reasons behind event cancellation. Upon reading it, one can understand that the decision was made in their best interest, helping to mitigate any negative feelings associated with the cancellation.


3. Answer Questions That Attendees May Have 
An important aspect of handling event cancellation with grace is addressing the pressing concerns of your attendees. In your email, make sure to truthfully respond to the following inquiries that may arise in your attendees' minds: 

a. Will the event be rescheduled? If so, furnish details about rescheduling, including date, time, and venue. Additionally, include links to your event page where attendees can access further details. 

b. Are there any alternative arrangements? Attendees may inquire whether the event has transitioned to a virtual format or if content from speakers has been made available in the form of podcast. You might also consider converting event content into a sketch video or an eBook. Whatever the alternative, be sure to mention it in your email. 

c. Will I receive a refund? Attendees have the right to seek a refund for their ticket purchase. It's your responsibility to provide comprehensive information about the refund terms and conditions (whether full or partial) and any other expenses incurred in relation to the event. If applicable, specify any commission or service fees that will be deducted. 

d. What happens to my travel and accommodation bookings? If attendees have made prior arrangements to attend the event, explain the process for canceling or obtaining refunds for those arrangements. 

e. Whom can I contact for further assistance? Provide the link to your event website or FAQ page where attendees can find information about whom to contact if they encounter any issues while processing refunds.


4. Conclude Your Email Politely
Once you've addressed all the key questions, it's time to conclude the message. Thank your recipients for their understanding and express appreciation for their efforts. Acknowledge the time and resources they've invested in preparing for your event. Your email should convey that you value their commitment. Here are a few examples of politely concluding your email: 

1. We sincerely appreciate your support and look forward to reconnecting with you in the future. Please don't hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. 

Warm regards,  

Your Name]


2. Your interest in our event is truly valued, and we apologize for any inconvenience this cancellation may cause. 

Warm regards, 

[Your Name]


3. We are grateful for the time you've dedicated to us and wish you all the best.  

Kind regards, 

[Your Name]


Sample Email Templates
Here are some sample templates for event cancellation announcements that you can tailor with your specific details. Besides, you can design your templates via a robust event management platform and share them with all your attendees. 

Email Template for Event Cancellation Due to Low Attendance
Subject: [Event name, date, and time]: Cancellation Notice for [attendee’s name] 

Dear [attendee’s first name],  

With deep regret and a heavy heart, we inform you that our event, which was set for [event date and time], has been canceled. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Do trust us when we say that this decision was not made without much deliberation.  

Despite our best efforts and optimism for a great outcome, we did not receive the number of registrations we were hoping for. Low attendance has made it impractical for us to proceed with the event.  

Note that every attendee who registered will get a full refund.  

If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here to assist you in every way we can. You can reach us at [Contact Information].  

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Once again, we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this news may cause you.  

Regards,  

[Your name] 

[Your position] 

[Your contact details]


Email Template for Event Rescheduling
Subject: [Event name] Rescheduled for [New date, time, and venue] 

Dear [attendee’s first name],  

We hope you are doing well. 

This email has both good and bad news for you. You may have understood the bad news from the subject. Our event, which was scheduled for [time, date, and venue], has been rescheduled for [new date]. We took this decision because of a scheduling conflict with the chosen venue.  

The good news is that the event won't be canceled and will take place on [new date] and [venue]. Also, the sessions and speakers will remain the same.  

Please mark your calendar with the new date so you don't miss out on the fun and opportunities. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by this unexpected rescheduling and hope for the best. 

Please reach out to us by replying to this email if you have any queries.  

Best Regards,  

[Your name] 

[Your position] 

[Your contact details]


Email Template for Postponing the Event Due to Bad Weather
Subject: [Event name] Canceled Because of Inclement Weather  

Dear [attendee’s first name], 

Hope you are safe and well.  

With deep regret, we inform you that [Event Name], which was scheduled for [Date], has been canceled. This decision was made due to unexpected and severe inclement weather conditions. 

We had been preparing the best experience for you for months and never anticipated such an outcome. This decision was made after a detailed consultation with local authorities to ensure that we're abiding by every possible precaution. For us, the safety of our attendees and staff is a top priority. The current weather forecast makes it incredibly risky for us to execute the event.  

Inclement weather [describe the weather] poses many risks like [describe the risks, such as flooding or extreme winds]. In such a situation, proceeding with the event will be a grave and costly mistake.  

Your event registration fee will be refunded [in full or partial] in line with our refund policy. If you have any questions about the cancellation or refund, please use the following links to find answers.  

[insert link to your event website] 

[insert link to your FAQ page] 

[insert link to your social media pages] 

You can also contact [name and designation] on phone to resolve your doubts.  

Thank you for your attention. We hope to meet you soon. 

Best Regards,  

[Your name] 

[Your position] 

[Your contact details]


Conclusion
Event cancellation serves as a stark reminder of the reality that despite your best efforts, things could go wrong. While it's disappointing to cancel an event due to unforeseen circumstances, you can minimize the impact by handling the communication with care. Use the advice in this blog as a guide to craft your event cancellation announcement. Ensure your message is clear, highlighting honest reasons for cancellation. Don't forget to provide alternatives for the cancelled event, along with contact information to address any concerns your attendees may have. By following these steps, you can navigate the situation without upsetting your attendees or jeopardizing their trust. 

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