How to cancel an event

How To Cancel Your Event (with 5 Event Cancellation Email Examples)

Learn how to cancel your event gracefully to showcase the integrity of your brand. Get it right with these tips and event cancellation email examples.
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November 27, 2022

Canceling your event is never anticipated but let’s face it, unpredictable things can happen beyond your control. For certain circumstances, you may have the option to postpone your event rather than completely canceling it, which could be ideal after putting effort into the planning process of your event. Once you have explored all your options and if all else fails, learning how to politely cancel your event is an underrated skill professionals should become familiar with for just in case purposes.

Is Canceling Your Event the Only Option?

Before completely canceling your event, try to do everything you can to address any mishaps so that you can still follow through with the execution. Be sure to evaluate the reason why you may need to cancel your event and see if there is a way you can save it. Ask yourself questions such as “is the cancellation due to internal or external factors?” Lastly, another option to consider is, if the event is going to be in person and needs to be canceled, is there any way you can transform it into a virtual event?

Steps to canceling an event

Choosing to Cancel an Event vs. Choosing to Postpone

It may be hard for you to decide whether or not you should completely cancel your event or postpone it for a later date. When coming up with that decision, it’s important to bring some factors and questions into consideration. 

1. How relevant is the content?

Before following through with the decision to cancel or postpone your event, think about the content you were going to present and if it’ll be relevant by the time you plan to re-host your event. If the information won’t be outdated, go ahead and follow through with rescheduling for a better day and time. 

2. Has Internal or External Factors Played a Role for the Canceled Event?

Thoroughly reviewing if an internal or external factor is affecting the execution of your event can help guide you on next best steps. For instance, if the venue you were planning to host your event is no longer available or if a natural disaster occurred around the time of the event, those are valid enough external reasons for you to consider canceling your event. Now if the budget for your event has tightened or not enough event tickets were sold, those are internal factors that are manageable and good enough reasons to postpone the event. 

Valid Reasons for Canceling an Event

For future references, it’s important to prepare for situations such as having to unexpectedly cancel an event. Part of that preparation is becoming familiar with different types of scenarios that can occur to affect canceling your event. 

1. Expecting a Low Attendance

Even if you aren’t expecting a large turnout for your event, it still may be a good idea to follow through with hosting it. By choosing to continue with hosting your event, you are demonstrating a positive reflection on behalf of your brand.

2. Inclement Weather

Whether your event is indoor or outdoor, if the weather forecast for the day of the event is expected to be poor or dangerous in any matter, consider canceling your event. Inclement weather such as tornado warnings, a heavy snowfall or thunderstorms are all examples of concerning weather conditions that could potentially put your guest at risk if they attempted to attend your event.

3. Interference of External Factors

Some examples of external factors impacting the execution of your are your reserved venue is experiencing plumbing problems, your selected catering company won’t have the event menu ready in time or the entertainment you booked suddenly had to cancel due to delay in travel. 

How to Cancel an Event

Once you have made the decision to cancel your event, it is now time to think about how you will inform everyone that is involved such as the attendees, sponsors, stakeholders, consumers or clients. Check out these four steps on how you can professionally communicate that your anticipated event is canceled. 

1. Communicate and Respectfully Decline Invites 

This may be difficult to do but since your event has been canceled, it’s a must that you relay this message to everyone who has registered to attend and to no longer accept future registrations. If possible, try to update your audience about the changes at least two weeks in advance. Also when informing everyone who has registered, be sure to utilize all communication platforms such as email, social media posts and SMS messages so that you can get the word out faster. Although they may be upset, attendees will appreciate the open honesty and that helps build trust. 

2. Explain Your Reasoning

To avoid any confusion or frustration, it is advised to provide your participants with a definitive reason as to why you have to cancel your event. Of course it may be better to tell a detailed reason rather than a brief one but regardless, providing an explanation will develop an understanding between you and everyone else that is involved. 

3. Provide Refunds

If you were charging your audience to attend your event, it is logical to return their money back to them as soon as possible. An alternative tactic you could try to reduce your financial risk could be offering credit for the next event, especially if you are planning to postpone the event for another date. Even then, still offer a full refund in addition to the credit so that the audience members can have options. Lastly, as a host, you should consider investing in insurance on behalf of your event. This too could help with reducing your financial impact on your event that has been canceled. 

4. Release an Official Announcement

In addition to informing close constituents of your event, it may be beneficial to create an official announcement or news release that can be widely distributed for the public. This can easily ensure as many people as possible can become aware of the canceled event, learn information about upcoming events and simply become more familiar with your brand. 

What is the process for canceling an event

5 Event Cancellation Email Examples from Top Brands

Earlier, we spoke about making sure you communicate with registered attendees about your canceled event. If you are able to, the most appropriate form of communication would be to email each attendee as soon as you are aware of the changes. Here we will cover three different examples from high profile events or brands on how they professionally informed anticipated guests about their event being canceled. The key is to learn the terminology and tone they used while sending out communication while still satisfying their consumers and maintaining their trust. 

1. Facebook F8

Hosted as an annual event for entrepreneurs and developers who created products and services, Facebook F8 was created to serve the local community and create opportunities for aspiring students. The event was anticipated for May 2020 and was announced canceled in February 2020. Below you will find a partial part of the detailed message they send out to their expected attendees.

“In place of the in-person F8 event, we’re planning other ways for our community to get together through a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content. We’ll share additional details on our plans for F8 in the coming weeks. Sign up here to have updates emailed to you directly. In the meantime, thanks for your patience and understanding — and we look forward to seeing our global community of developers at F8 2021!”

2. Google I/O 2020

Initially, the Google I/O 2020 was planned to be a virtual event but once California health officials announced a “shelter in place order,” Google quickly shifted gears to put their attendees’ and employees' safety and well-being first. In addition to the email that was sent out, Google also provided a FAQ as support for anyone who has questions or concerns about the change of events. This virtual experience was planned to go live in May 2020 and was announced to be canceled in March 2020

“Out of concern for the health and safety of our developers, employees, and local communities — and in line with recent “shelter in place” orders by the local Bay Area counties — we sadly will not be holding I/O in any capacity this year.

Right now, the most important thing all of us can do is focus our attention on helping people with the new challenges we all face. Please know that we remain committed to finding other ways to share platform updates with you through our developer blogs and community forums. Take care of yourselves. We’ll continue to do everything we can to help our communities stay safe, informed, and connected.”

3. SXSW

The highly awaited festival, SXSW is hosted annually in Austin, TX where it is centered around music, technology, education and art. The cancellation of this event is one the biggest known to date because they insisted on proceeding with the event even in the midst of the pandemic. It even got to a point where performers would pull out from the event and encourage it to be canceled with a petition due to the unsafe environment.  Overall, the festival was forced to be canceled after the Mayor of Austin declared a disaster order. The SXSW festival was scheduled to be hosted on Mar 13, 2022 and was officially canceled days before on Mar 6, 2022. 

“We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theaters, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts.  We will continue to work hard to bring you the unique events you love. Though it’s true that our March 2020 event will no longer take place in the way that we intended, we continue to strive toward our purpose – helping creative people achieve their goals.”

4. Women in Cybersecurity

By relying heavily on sponsorship, this non-profit organization is dedicated to bringing together women in the cybersecurity industry to network and share common knowledge amongst one another. This event was originally scheduled for March 14-17, 2020 but was officially announced canceled on March 7th. 

“We want to do a special shout out to our conference sponsors. It’s these individuals and companies that have gone above and beyond. They are walking the walk of supporting diversity and inclusion. They support WiCyS for the nonprofit’s good and for changing the fate of the cybersecurity workforce. They are rooted in commitment and passion to move the needle! They are true LEADERS and need to be recognized for their devotion to our nonprofit organization. Each and every day, they enrich women to not only BEGIN but be PROMOTED and ADVANCED in their cybersecurity careers and we are all #StrongerTogether because of them.”

5. Imex Frankfurt

Known as a landmark show in the events industry, “IMEX” is a family business event that encourages exhibitors and buyers to come together to network as a global business event community. Originally scheduled for May 12-14, 2020, the event was officially canceled two month prior.  For further support, the event organizers included quotes from thought leaders and partners to express the overall disappointment of their canceled event. 

“It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we announce the cancellation of this year’s IMEX in Frankfurt (due to take place 12-14 May).

We know that this will come as an enormous disappointment, not only to the exhibitors, buyers and industry professionals who were due to attend the show, but also to the global business events community.

This 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…”

How to write a cancellation for your event

Tips on Creating Communication for Canceled Events 

It’s already difficult to cancel an event you have been planning or waiting to occur so having to be the messenger and informing others about the canceled event could be twice the challenge. If you ever find yourself in this situation, try applying the tips below to ensure clear communication. 

1. Emphasize Your Decision 

Once you decide to cancel your event, be sure to emphasize that you have closely analyzed the situation and state your decision as being the best option for you and everyone else involved such as speakers, the audience and partners. 

2. Create a Universal Message

Create a webpage or email address for people to utilize with any questions and concerns they may have or to familiarize themselves with information based on your decision to cancel or any upcoming events. 

3. Loop in Your Legal Team

Be sure to update your legal team with your decision to cancel so that they are aware of contractual decisions.

4. Inform Involved Parties in a Timely Manner

Try to communicate your decision at least two weeks in advance so that attendees that planned to travel for the event can cancel their accommodations that were made prior.

5. Conduct an Analysis 

If the reason your event was canceled is completely out of your control, try to gather feedback on what could have been done differently and what you can do as a host in the future to avoid this circumstance again. It also may be helpful to incorporate “back up plans” so if any factors potentially jeopardize your future events, you’ll be properly prepared.

Conclusion

Now that you know what all it takes to create and send out communication about a canceled event, it’s important to keep a positive attitude and have hope for the success of your next event. Then it is a must that you keep in contact with the ones who registered for your event and keep them engaged with your overall brand so that they can be excited about the next events you have in store for them. Some examples of keeping their interest while your event is in the planning process is hosting pop up events, virtual or hybrid events depending on the goal you would like to achieve. 

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