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What To Think About When You Cancel Events

Sonam Shetty reminds us to think of the human touch of event cancellations in the environment of COVID-19.

Across the world, COVID-19 has taken root and hit hard in several types of places. As social distancing becomes the norm in an attempt to flatten the curve; to try to slow the progression of COVID-19, travel and cultural events are being postponed or cancelled. When public health shifts to number one on the list of priorities the rest of the aspects get pushed behind, especially emotional wellbeing aspects like arts and culture. Due to this pandemic, new recommendations are emerging daily, both large and small-scale event cancellations are becoming more common and are affecting the arts and cultural communities.

While this may be critical, it is also important to consider what may be lost when events are cancelled. The impact is not only financial but also social. Attending cultural festivals is related to a sense of emotional connection. Social interaction is a common driver of event attendance and is thought to contribute to both social and individual benefits. By coming together to share in a common experience, people build stronger, more resilient communities.

In order to not lose out on people who are emotionally invested in your events, the best way to deal with cancellations in an unavoidable situation is by being completely transparent with the audience.

Here's a checklist of what you might consider when communicating with your audiences when cancelling events and programmes:

- Discuss internally with your programming team and speakers / artists. Check if there is a plan B (pivoting to digital platforms on a later date if possible)

- Stop selling tickets on your website and inform third party ticket vendors if involved

- Communicate with your attendees

  • Email people who have registered and paid for tickets about the unavoidable situation

  • Offer full refund or credit to apply towards another performance.

  • If they opt for refund, clearly explain how many days will be involved and who to reach out to if they face any obstacles

  • Follow it up with a call

- Update Your Website, Social Media, Phone Message and Advertising

  • Don’t just erase the event from your website, but clearly state why it is cancelled

  • All modes of communication should have the same message of event cancellation

The cancellation of an event is not just inconvenient for the organisers but also the audience. By proactively reaching out to the audience, you’re showing them that you care about them and that you’d never leave them disappointed.


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