You’ve been hard at work planning an event for months and everything’s coming together. You’ve booked a killer venue, found vendors willing to go the extra mile, and your attendee list is a mile long.

Then, a week before the event, your headliner pulls out — and there’s just not enough time to find a replacement. Is it time to cancel or postpone your event?

It never feels like a good choice, but sometimes canceling or postponing an event is the right (and only) thing to do. Here are four scenarios when postponing or canceling your event is the only choice to avoid an event disaster.

1. Safety

Natural disasters, security concerns, bad weather like excessive heat warnings… if there’s a chance that your event attendees could be in harm’s way, the best course of action is to gracefully cancel or reschedule your event.

While it’s no easy feat facing disappointed attendees, it’s much easier dealing with frustrated fans than insurance agencies. Plus, when handled with skill, a cancellation is another opportunity to build up trust with your audience.

2. Under-delivering

Anything that might stop you from delivering on the promises made in your event description is cause for either canceling or postponing. If you aren’t providing people with what they paid for (or an equivalent), you risk disappointing them and losing their trust.

Your event’s reputation is built on the quality of the experience you deliver. If the experience you offer differs significantly from the vision you sold, it’s time to call off the event until you can live up to fans’ expectations. By displaying above-and-beyond customer service in this scenario, you can maintain your hard-earned reputation and your fans’ trust.

3. Social cues

If a national tragedy or community disaster occurs right before your event, it may not be in good form to keep your raging party on the schedule. Cancelling or postponing the event will provide people with time to grieve and be with their families — and shows you care.

If you’re on the fence about whether to cancel or not, consider if it would be seen as poor taste to move forward with your event. Alternatively, you could consider making your event a fundraiser for the community instead of keeping the profits.

4. Your venue cancels

When the unthinkable happens and your venue cancels, what do you do? First, take a deep breath. Second, assess the situation. Do you have enough time to find a different venue? If so, start by searching in a similar neighborhood so the venue change won’t affect guests or vendors drastically. Think out of the box — perhaps there is a warehouse or an Airbnb rental that would be suitable if no hotel ballrooms are available.

If there is truly no availability, then you need to postpone your event. For the trouble your venue caused, they should either waive the fee or provide a significant discount for your new date. Just be sure you communicate with attendees as soon and frequently as possible to prevent anyone showing up on the wrong day.

Recap: To cancel or postpone?

So, your event can’t go on as planned. But how do you know if canceling or postponing is the better choice? Opt to postpone the event if there’s an issue related to the date, venue, or your vendors. But you’ll likely have to cancel the event if there’s a safety or budget concern that you can’t resolve within a couple weeks of your original date.

Tips for postponing your event:

  • Be sure to have a replacement date and venue in place to spread the word
  • Offer to transfer attendees’ spots to the new event
  • Offer a refund as well, as your new event date or location may not work for everyone

Tips for canceling your event:

  • Remember, a well-done cancellation can actually showcase the integrity of your brand
  • Communicate right away with your attendees and stop taking sales
  • Begin issuing full refunds as quickly as possible

Unexpected elements can derail even the best-planned event. But you can overcome many of them if you have buffer room in your budget.

Find out how to prepare an event budget that will protect you against the unexpected in How to Get More From Your Event Budget.

  • Was this article helpful?
  • yesno