Best Practices When Postponing or Canceling Events

Communicate in Real Time

Try hard not to make any predictions or statements about the future. You don’t want to be the next event that releases a statement that you are not cancelling and then 24 hours later you cancel. Say you are monitoring the situation. The minute that you have updates – make sure to tell all relevant stakeholders! Over-communication is significantly better than under-communication in times like these.

Speak to Your Stakeholders Where They Are

Is your main community on a Facebook event group? On an email listserv? On a website? Put your updated information on all channels. It is nice to be able to link all your information to one landing page. However, the more clicks your stakeholders have to click through – the more you will lose them and they will not have access to your most updated information. For important updates, it is worth the time to copy and paste it into each platform you are communicating with.

Check Your Contract

If you find your venue to difficult, make sure to check your contract.

Does your contract include a Force Majeure clause? Most contracts do. However, the wording for your Force Majeure clause can vary from contract to contract. Some clauses state the pandemics are included, some specifically state that viral and bacterial infections are excluded. Some include specific time frames – such as “Force Majeure would apply within 30 days of your event” so you would not be able to cancel until closer to time. While a Force Majeure clause could help you out of your contract, it may not fully protect you from any attrition penalties in the case of a health crisis. Read your contract and the clauses carefully.

Can your event insurance apply to "disease type" situations? In most cases, absolutely. However, make sure to check the dates of your event versus the dates included in your insurance policy. Some specify certain time periods – such as within 30 days. If there are additional lines for “communicable disease”, depending on the time frame this could be considered a “pre-existing condition” and would not be covered. Insurance companies will also not cover “fear” if you pre-cancel your event too far out and it is not covered within the time frames specified by the CDC. This would also apply if attendees are not wanting to travel out of fear of catching an illness without any official policies or health advisories. If you do not know if your event cancellation insurance covers communicable diseases – research it.

Event Options

Some events will postpone to the Fall and some events will cancel until next year. Many events are turning online so that they will not lose the touchpoints with their stakeholders. While most event professionals have taken small meetings online to platforms such as Zoom, there are options for events. Two that are gaining increasing popularity are “Run the World” and “Hopin”. Run the World has been described as a mix of “Zoom, Eventbrite, Twitch, and LinkedIn” where organizers can livestream talks. Attendees fill out a profile based on interests and the algorithm matches them with others that they can meet in small breakout rooms. Hopin is similar to Run the World but is geared more towards large events. It features livestreamed presentations but then has a chat roulette-style feature to meet other attendees.

For more information, contact:

Kristin Malek
Event Management Extension Specialist
University of Nebraska Lincoln