We all know that unforeseen circumstances can get in the way of an event. Maybe your venue cancels on you at the last minute, or bad weather puts your attendees’ safety at risk.
As part of Eventbrite’s customer experience team, I know event cancellations happen to the best of us. But when cancellations aren’t handled gracefully, we’ve had upwards of 50 attendees reach out to us for support — all for a single event! On the other hand, a well-done cancellation can actually showcase the integrity of your brand.
So what should you do when faced with the difficult decision to cancel an event? Here are some tips to help you turn an unfortunate situation into an opportunity to delight, and show above-and-beyond customer service.
Need to cancel your Eventbrite event? Click here: How to cancel your event and issue refunds)
1. Communicate with your attendees and stop taking sales
If you’re sure you have to cancel your event, the first important step is to communicate with your attendees and stop selling tickets. Your ticket buyers are your number one priority, and you should tell them as soon as you’ve made the final decision.
Determining how far in advance to communicate with attendees is never easy, but ideally you’ll give at least 24 hours notice. However, the more notice — whether it’s a week, or a month — the better. This is especially the case if attendees are traveling far and need time to re-arrange travel plans, hotels, etc.
Email your attendees as soon as you can, and if possible, give everyone a call. Some folks aren’t always checking their inbox, and emails often go into Spam folders, so take all possible routes (even social media) to communicate this critical information. Your website, marketing emails, or other promotional materials are also good channels to make the announcement.
When emailing attendees, be clear about refund amounts, when you’ll start processing refunds, and when attendees should expect to see refunds credited to their accounts. Lastly, simply signing off the email with a name and title (“_______, Event Director”) instead of your event name adds a human touch to your delivery.
Here’s an example email to get you started:
This message is to inform you that this year’s Corgi Festival has been cancelled, due to severe weather and a high likelihood of lightning in the area. The safety of attendees, pets, and crew always comes first.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and look forward to greeting you, and your furry friends, next year.
We are issuing full refunds and you’ll receive an email within the next 1-2 days to confirm your refund has been issued. At that point, it’ll take 5-7 banking days for your funds to be available for use. Only primary ticket purchasers will receive a refund. For questions, please contact us: [https://www.dfloenteventsgrp.com/contact].
DFLO Entertainment Events Group
2. Issue full refunds
If you charged for tickets, you should issue a full refund to attendees — and start the process quickly. If your event runs for multiple days and only one day is canceled, it’s perfectly fine to offer a partial or prorated refund to multi-day ticket holders.
Postponing the event rather than canceling? As long as you have a date and venue in place, you can offer to transfer their spot to the new event. Just also offer the refund too — that new event date may not work for everyone.
One tip here: You may also want to tell attendees to talk to their bank or credit card provider to check on the status of refunds. Attendees will often send you personal account or card information to check on refund statuses — tell them not to send you that info and talk to their bank or credit card provider directly.
Once the wind has died down and everyone is aware of the cancellation, you should reflect on what could be done better next time.
What went wrong? What can you do differently in the future? What appealed to attendees and made them want to go in the first place? How many attendees will 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.
It’s every event organizer’s worst-case scenario to have to cancel an event, but done in an open, responsible way, it doesn’t have to be the end of your event. In fact, this experience can show your opportunities for growth…and may form the foundation for a very successful event in the future.
Even with due diligence, there still may be some things that are out of your control. But follow best practices and to resolve the inevitable challenges faster — and protect your attendees from the chaos. Download The Event Preparedness Playbook: How to Avoid Common Festival Failures for tips to minimize your risk of festival mishaps throughout your event.