What would you do in case of event cancellation?
You’ve been waiting for the day of your event for months. What if there is a power cut at the venue? Or, it starts raining heavily? Or, there is a traffic jam outside your event venue? Such situations can put you in a soup.
Such unforeseen circumstances are beyond your control, and can adversely affect your event. This means, your wonderfully planned event crafted to perfection does not get to see the light of the day. Good news is – some of these circumstances can be controlled. For instance, you can rely on your on-site technical personnel for any tech related glitches.
For all the other circumstances, you can prepare yourself in advance to handle crisis management better.
Importance of Crisis Management while planning an event
Crisis management: A process by which an organization deals with a major event that threatens the organization, its sponsors or the general public. In other words, it involves dealing with threats before, during and after they have occurred.
It is very important to make effective crisis management an integral part of any event. For instance, in case of an event cancellation, a crisis management plan can cover everything including what to do if a speaker doesn’t show up, or the microphone cuts out, or a fire breaks out.
Types of Crises
During the crisis management process, it is important to identify types of crises. Potential crises are enormous, but can be clustered as follows:
- Natural Disaster
- Technological Crisis
- Organizational Misdeeds/Workplace Violence
- Riots/man-made disaster
When as an organizer you have to cancel an event due to a crisis, what best can you do? Of course, you need to have a basic emergency/plan ‘B’ in place as a standard practice. However, the more detailed and effective your fall-back plan is, the safer your business is.
So, what goes into the making of a good crisis management plan? We have curated 7 effective ways for event organizers that will come in handy for better crisis management in case of event cancellation.
7 Ways to Do Better Crisis Management in Case of Event Cancellation
1. Life safety is priority
Take immediate action to cancel the event. Stop selling tickets!
In the first place, if you have any advance warning pertaining to a possible crisis situation occurring on or right before your scheduled event, go ahead and cancel the event right away. You can’t waste any time here:
- All operations need to be stopped.
- Stop selling the tickets straight away.
- Simultaneously, halt any advertising/marketing campaigns.
The “band-aid rule” applies here. Cut it off immediately and avoid lingering pain.
If traveling to the event or attending the event itself involves life-endangering risk, it’s better to cancel and reschedule the event. Even the best-planned meetings are subject to a crisis of some magnitude. Event cancellation is the best option when life safety is in danger.
Conversely, it does not mean that you have to think of event cancellation for every minor threat or an unplanned situation. Sometimes it does happen that the risk factors may be initially overstated, or the situation can be contained before it poses any kind of risk to the event. In some cases, the planners can make a few improvisations that will allow the event to continue through crisis situation without risk to life safety.
2. A clear chain of communication
Communicate to your attendees, partners, vendors and the entire team.
Developing an effective crisis management plan is essential to ensure everyone from the support staff, delegates and the speakers exactly know what to do in an emergency. Brief them properly on evacuation procedures or alternative arrangements.
Be it a small workshop or a large event, even the smallest disruption can impact the day and if not dealt properly, can escalate. Rumors spread quickly amongst the delegates that an event cancellation might happen wherein only the start has been delayed. So one needs to have a clear and confident process of delivering critical information right up to the moment everyone arrives and the event starts.
Also, in case of event cancellation, confirm that the event will indeed be canceled. Then, notify everyone – and we mean everyone. But, first, always communicate to your attendees. Email your attendees as soon as you can, and if possible, give everyone a call. You can use the Townscript Send Announcement feature to announce to your attendees of event cancellation with a single click. Here’s a sample event cancellation email:
Some guests might not check their inbox, and emails can go into Spam folders as well, so take all possible routes to communicate this critical information.
Be as open and transparent as possible, explaining the reasoning behind the decision to cancel. During your event planning, you should also gather a list of key contacts containing your vendors, partners, sponsors, and so on. While the event is happening, that list will be an aid. It tells you exactly who you need to inform regarding the event cancellation news.
3. Time-critical responses
Respond on social media and refund on time!
Heavy rainfall or an earthquake can put the event at the risk of cancellation at very short notice. Communication at such times through email, SMS, Twitter etc. is critical to quickly update attendees as events unfold. Create a forum on the event’s Facebook page where attendees can post or read the latest updates.
Pay attention to your event’s other social media channels and any associated hashtags. It’s critical to monitor the discussion surrounding your event. Reply to each mention, question or comment. Continue to also push out your cancellation message to anyone who still thinks the event is happening. Social media can be of great help in such a situation.
A time-critical plan covering the responses from the first hour onwards ensures that the delegates and sponsors are kept in the loop with clear, concise reports. This will give a good reputation to your company, whether it’s a faulty fire alarm or a bomb threat, frequent and clear communication will be appreciated.
Your final event plans need to include any necessary refunds to your attendees. Be sure to address their immediate concern, a refund, as quickly as possible. Provide information on how your attendees can receive a refund. It’s crucial to be specific and clear about the terms of the refund. Use the Townscript Dashboard to Refund the attendees with a single click.
4. Don’t forget the Media
Update the media at all times!
Communicate your plan to the media/press and keep them updated, it is very critical. If you have invited journalists, photographers or TV reporters to the event, it becomes imperative to keep them updated. They are again very important as far as the marketing and reputation of your company or event are concerned. Hence, never ignore them, just because they have not paid to be there. Keep them in the loop as much as everybody else. This will help in diverting any negative focus away from the event.
5. Event Insurance
Especially important for high-risk events or large events.
Ensuring the event can proportionately take care of the risk, however, reputation can’t be recovered so easily and are far more precious, and harder to mend. Though an event gets cancelled only under unavoidable circumstances and not so often, the threat which poses under one such situation can’t be overlooked either. Event insurance can definitely be helpful. It is a very important part of crisis management, so make sure your insurance covers all your needs. Few tailor-made plans are also available to suit your requirements.
6. Contingency Plans
Prepare a contingency planning checklist.
Stopping a small setback from becoming more serious is a very important part of crisis management. Every time when there are difficulties in the event management like if a delegate is unwell or a fire alarm disrupts the day etc., event planners need to add this to their checklist and also inspect the venue personally. Crisis simulation can range from running through likely and dramatic scenarios to actually training the staff before the event on how to handle contingencies from a heart attack to a gun threat.
7. Cool Heads and Leadership Roles
Manage to keep a cool head during event cancellation.
Technical heads and Event Managers should think of their role in a crisis situation to be similar to that of a flight attendant. They are trained in emergency procedures so that the attendees may depend on them to perform effectively and calmly in a real crisis. In a situation where most of them will panic or either be hysterical or paralyzed with fear, the leaders must keep a cool head and help the crowd by leading them from the front to the safety.
Once everyone is aware of the cancellation, reflect on what could be done better next time. Answering these questions will be helpful:
- What went wrong?
- How can you do differently in the coming time?
- What appealed to attendees?
- How many attendees would be willing to buy tickets to another one of your events in the future?
These types of insights could prove invaluable when planning your next event.
A crisis that is not managed well can wipe out decades of hard work and company value in a matter of hours. On the other hand, a well-managed crisis confirms that your company has the processes and procedures in place to address almost any unforeseen issue that may develop or occur.
As you develop your crisis management plan, seek advice from the experts that include your leadership team, employees, customers, lawyers, and financial managers. Each of these individuals can provide you with valuable insight that could be critical, should a crisis strike your event.
It is always a difficult decision to cancel an event, especially when the situation is out of your control. If you do have to cancel, it is important to create consistent messaging, communicate quickly to all important stakeholders, stop all the operations, and answer all questions.
The way you handle the frustrating situation of your event cancellation, will not only help diminish negative backlash but also form the foundation for a very successful event in the future. This worst-case scenario can show your opportunities for growth and maintain your reputation as well as your brand integrity.