20 Tips for Minimizing Event Cancellations

CancelRecently, discussions about event cancellations have been popping up on social media channels. While there are no foolproof strategies to eliminate event cancellations, they can be minimized.

  1. Do your homework and ensure that there is an interest in a potential audience for your event.
  2. Select scalable venues.

    I used to organize public workshops for my own business and professional associations, I often booked venues with spaces that ranged from lounge to large meeting rooms for bigger groups. One even has a greenhouse.
  3. Identify your concerns about projecting group size with the venue and  get an understanding of their options.
  4. Identify other venues nearby that allow outside catering in case you have to scale down significantly.
    Think churches, greenhouses, on-campus venues, acting or music studios, venues in parks, camps during off-season.

    Tip: Get ideas from movie and TV production houses that regularly scout locations for shoots.
  5. Discuss off-site catering packages with your preferred venue.
  6. Consider co-locating with another event targeting the same audience earlier or later in the day.

    MPI and SITE have used this strategy in conjunction with IMEX and Ignite Business Expo.
  7. Select the space that best fits the anticipated group size.
  8. If possible, negotiate per person pricing to scale the event by moving to a smaller or large room.
  9. Set a date assess how registrations are proceeding. Identify all possible ways of trimming event costs and, if necessary, move to a lounge or a smaller meeting room.

    Ask the venue to give you right of first refusal on smaller spaces prior to that day. That way, you can make a decision before the space is booked and avoid having to move to another event venue or cancel the event outright.
  10. Agree on a realistic cancellation date that gives you enough time for event marketing and the venue enough time to re-sell the space.
  11. Discuss catering options at various price points and set a date for final menu selection based on when you anticipate having a handle on your numbers.
  12. If possible, get a sponsor to cover some fixed costs  to reduce what you charge attendees. Alumni associations have been doing this for some time and my company even have a corporate client that does this.
  13. Co-organize and co-market your event with one or more suppliers (as DMCs and Tourist Boards are doing).
  14. Give yourself 30% - 50% more marketing time than you think you need.
  15. In your marketing material, be open. Clearly state that the venue is subject to change if the group size is smaller or larger than anticipated.
  16. Ask registrants to help you spread the word.
  17. For events offered to the general public, offer early bird discounts.
  18. For events geared to corporate audiences, choose meaningful early registration incentives (early bird discounts are not effective when employers are footing the bill.)

    Ideas: Speaker book or DVD give-aways of books or DVDs, concert tickets, or movie passes can be excellent incentives. (These can often be donated by sponsors.) A VIP reception, afternoon tea or private lunch with the speaker can be appealing.
  19. If you must change locations, give the original venue ample notice.
  20. Be open with registered participants and let them know how many more attendees you need to hold the event.

    They are well motivated to see the event succeed and can often help you get more attendees.

It's better to sell out an event in a smaller room or venue than to cancel it. These strategies can minimize the likelihood of event cancellations.

What other strategies would you add to this list?

Photo Credit: andjohan

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