I have to cancel my event due to coronavirus – what do I do?

March 18, 2020

The highly contagious and potentially fatal coronavirus has swept the globe, causing thousands of events to be cancelled. It’s understandably devastating. Organisers across the country have been working tirelessly to plan shows, festivals and events. No doubt these events have been costly to set up, too, with deposits and equipment most likely paid for upfront months in advance.

The government’s advice currently is to avoid mass gatherings, though there is no official ban on these events. As an event organiser, it’s up to you whether you believe it’s safe to go ahead. Don’t put your staff or your guests at risk, and consider everyone’s wellbeing. It may seem financially the best idea to go ahead with your event, to avoid having to refund guests, but long-term this could damage your reputation, not to mention potentially spread the deadly virus.

It’s an ever-evolving situation, so do keep up to date with the latest government advice and follow their recommendations where possible.

Here are our top 5 tips if you do have to cancel an event…

1. Communication is key

Speak to customers at every stage of the process. If you need to cancel or postpone your event, make sure you send an email to your attendees as soon as possible. Detail if and when your event will be rescheduled, include information from your refund policy and give clear instructions if you require an attendee to take any action.

2. Reschedule as soon as possible

Find a new date as soon as you can, and communicate this to your customers. Work with your suppliers, venue and other stakeholders to agree on a suitable date. Aim to wait a few months before rescheduling the event to make sure you aren’t at risk of a further cancellation.

3. Find the best way to refund your customers

It may sound counterproductive, but don’t offer a refund straight away. Instead, encourage guests to exchange their tickets for the new date or a separate event you’re running. If this simply isn’t possible, and your guest doesn’t want to donate their ticket price to the cause, then you legally must offer them a full refund. You don’t need to refund delivery costs or booking fees.

4. Speak to your supplier or venue

If a supplier or your event venue has cancelled, you will be able to get your deposits back. However, if you cancel or postpone your event you’ll need to honour any fees you’ve already paid and any money owed (depending on the cancellation terms in your contract).

Again, the key here is to communicate. Your suppliers and venue are more likely to be understanding and cooperative if you are transparent about the situation. Going silent or failing to respond promptly to emails won’t help you create a positive, long-lasting relationship with your industry peers.

5. Make the most of tech

Can you make your event online only? If you’re hosting a conference or seminar, then your event attendees might be interested in a virtual version of the event. Now’s the time to trial your organisation’s Business Continuity Plan – can your staff work from home to minimise risk of coronavirus spread? Cancelling an event can be a lengthy and complex process, but your staff may be able to complete this from home.

We understand that cancelling an event can be financially crippling for the organisation or individuals funding it. While some insurance policies may cover you for event cancellation, there are often limits and clauses in place. Check your individual policy terms and conditions or get in touch with the Insure Our Event experts. We’d be happy to offer our help.

There are a number of government support schemes available to help small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality, retail or leisure sector. For more information on these grants or schemes, visit the gov.uk website.

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