Across the country, many events are being postponed or rescheduled because of public health concerns over coronavirus. If you are one that has had to make that difficult decision, there are steps you can take to help make everyone feel good (or at least less bad) about the change.
Identify everyone who will be impacted.
This includes attendees, speakers, the venue, event staff, hotels, transportation providers, and any other vendors. They’ll need to be notified, and you’ll need to work together on the logistics of the rescheduled event.
Figure out your “Plan B.”
Focusing on the purpose of the event will help you quickly identify the best alternative format, dates, or location. That way, you can announce the big picture of your Plan B when you announce the postponement. This helps reassure guests that the event will still happen. Every important objective will still be met.
Communicate clearly and often with attendees.
Once you’ve made the decision to postpone and have your alternate plan, communicate that in an email to your attendees as soon as possible. (Email is available on multiple devices and can be referred back to over time.) You don’t want your guests to hear the news from someone else or on social media, which will make them feel like they don’t matter. Even if you don’t have all the details to share with them at this time, let them know that – then give them a date when you’ll next update them and make sure you follow through. The frequency of communication should be relative to how close the original event date is: an event originally scheduled for two days from now could require almost hourly messaging, while the postponement of an event a month from now could be messaged once or twice per week.
Communicate with your team.
Make sure they understand the internal plans, to both help manage their stress and to empower them to communicate effectively with attendees, vendors, and contractors.
Be consistent in your messaging.
This will help everyone feel confident in your plan and will help you keep track of what’s been said. Make sure all of your messaging, from social media to the person answering the main phone line, conveys the same information.
Find something you can do in the meantime.
Even if you can’t hold the event you planned right now, there are many things you could do to stay connected to your audience and give them a bright spot in what might otherwise be an incredibly stressful time. Things like webinars, virtual meetings, or even simple giveaways can help people feel cared for and part of a larger community.
Be a source of calm.
People were looking forward to attending your event, so on top of being generally anxious they’re also going to be disappointed. Remaining calm in your messaging, approach, and demeanor is an act of kindness that will be remembered long after the event has passed.