Sometimes circumstances leave you no option but to cancel your event; you know, the event you’ve been working on and promoting for months with that band or comedian that you’ve personally wanted to see live for years and had invested both time and money into making happen. Unfortunately, shit happens, but whatever the reason – flooded venue, illness, equipment failure – there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle it. Here’s our step by step guide to cancelling your event without letting your customers down.
1. Don’t mess about
We know it can be heart-breaking to see all your good work come undone, but don’t cling on to false hope. It’s best to make the decision to cancel as early as you can, which means being realistic if you are trying to source a replacement headliner or venue. Sure, thinking on your feet is great but if you can’t deliver an event of the same quality as the one people bought tickets for, then it’s best to call it quits. In the long run this will save you a lot of hassle, reduce the number of customer enquiries, give you more time to handle those that you do receive and ultimately help retain customer goodwill and brand affinity.
2. Take ownership
Before you make the announcement, spend some time formulating your message and make sure you take ownership. Don’t get involved in a blame game or in airing dirty laundry in public, even if the venue has rescinded on promises or the headline act turned out to be an unreliable dick. In these cases it’s fine to say “due to reasons outside of our control…” – don’t go into more detail, it can look unprofessional and distract from the key information for customers.
3. Be clear in your messaging
Cancelling an event isn’t always a straightforward business, so make sure you are clear in your messaging. If you are rescheduling, then when will it take place? Or when will you know when it will take place? What can customers do in the meantime? How do they get their money back? It’s worth checking your ticket agent’s T&Cs to make sure who is and who isn’t eligible for a refund, and whether this will be processed automatically. If you can take the stress out of it for your customers they’ll happily book for one of your events again. If you make a mess of it or send out a contradictory message to your ticket agent, it will cause a lot of confusion and bad will (please don’t do a Jabberwocky: it’s been years, and I’m still not over it).
4. Be comprehensive
Once you’ve formulated your announcement, make sure you put the vital info out over all your owned channels. Use all your social media platforms and update all your listings, which means informing all the ticket agents you sell with as well as any listings or affiliate sites you work with, like ents24 or Songkick too. Affiliate sites should take your feed (or your ticket agent’s feed) automatically and update their pages, but this isn’t always instant so it’s worth giving them a heads up.
Speaking from experience, there will always be a few customers who, despite your best efforts, do not get the announcement and are oblivious to the cancellation. They may not use social media, or when booking tickets, they may have entered their email address incorrectly and so didn’t receive the notification (it happens). This means that some people are bound to still turn up regardless, so make sure you put a sign or two up at the venue and brief venue staff so they know what’s going on. If customers don’t see the signs… then they’re probably at the wrong venue, and there’s not a lot you can do about that.
6. Go the extra mile
Unfortunately, you’ll almost inevitably get criticism, so make sure you look at what went wrong, what steps you could take to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and then see if there is anything you can do now to improve customer relations. Could you offer those affected a discount to one of your future shows? Or priority booking? It needn’t come at huge expense, but gestures like this can preserve your reputation, boost brand affinity, and even help pack out your next event.