Hey! Remember this post from the earlier days of the pandemic — Should I cancel my event because of COVID-19?

Well, a lot has changed since then. Non-essential business came to a halt. People stayed home (aside from frontline workers, vital personnel, and terrible assholes who just got bored). And as of July 2020, thanks to politics, denial, and incompetent leadership, cases are surging in the US.

Coooool. Cool cool cool. 😓

via GIPHY

By now, it’s probably sinking in: that in-person event you have scheduled (or re-scheduled) for a location in the United States this fall or winter? It’s probably going to have to change. Sorry!

So – whether you’re canceling, postponing, or going virtual, how do you communicate ALL THE THINGS to paid registrants, potential attendees, and everyone else in your audience — without causing additional stress and confusion in a time that’s already over-the-top wtf for so many people?

Don’t worry, fren. I’ve got you.

Let’s start with the order in which you go about announcing the changes, because that’s the thing organizations overlook most often.

 

Start with your team, your speakers, and your vendors

 

Before you go announcing the changes anywhere, though? Make sure your team, speakers, and vendors all have the appropriate info. Seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many speakers and team members learn about something for the first time when it’s broadcast online.

 

Be prepared for questions

 

There’s no way around it: people are going to have questions. Before you start making your announcements, make sure you and your team have answers to the following:

If you’re rescheduling:

  • What are the new dates?
  • What is the new location (if applicable)?
  • Will my registration automatically transfer?
  • Can I get a refund?
  • Do I need to take any action to transfer my registration or get a refund?
  • Is your speaker lineup changing?
  • How will the organization and the venue be handling health and safety measures?

If you’re going virtual:

  • Are the dates changing?
  • How do I access the material?
  • How is the schedule changing?
  • Is your speaker lineup changing?
  • What are the tech requirements?
  • How can I get a refund?
  • Will my registration automatically transfer?
  • Do I need to take any action to either attend virtually or get my money back?

If you’re canceling:

  • Will I get a refund?
  • When can I expect my refund?
  • Do I need to take any action to receive my refund?
  • Can I defer my registration until next year’s event?
  • Do you have any information about the event schedule for next year?

Get your email copy ready. Get your website copy ready.

Before you roll out your announcement (see below for more on that!), prepare a basic FAQ page with the questions you anticipate.

After you make your announcements, stay in touch with your team members. If they’re handing customer service calls and emails, they’ll likely have some insight as to what other questions are coming in.

 

Make the announcement in strategic stages

 

1. Your paid/confirmed registrants should get the news first, and they need to hear from you directly. I know, I know. You might be tempted to just blast the updates out on social and to everyone on your email list. But while that might be the most convenient (*cough* for you *cough*) approach, that’s not how you build long-term trust and loyalty.

The people who gave you their money deserve to hear any change or cancellation news from you first and directly. The news should come right to their inbox, and they shouldn’t have to hunt around on your various social channels to figure out what the deal is with this event they paid to attend.

Don’t have all the details yet? It’s ok to send a “here’s what we know right now, here’s what it what it means for you, and we’ll be in touch as soon as we know more” note.

2. Update your website. This serves two purposes. One, people who were heading to your site to register will be aware of the change before sending in their payment. Two, those who have seen your announcement on social or received it via email will have somewhere to go to get the full scoop.

For steps 3 and 4, the order is interchangeable. You can roll them out at the same time if you have the bandwidth!

3. After you’ve reached out to your paid attendees, then it’s ok to announce on social media. This might include some paid registrants, but they’ll already have an email waiting in their inbox! It’ll also include people who were interested in attending and just hadn’t registered yet as well as your general followers.

4. Next, email the rest of your list. Yup, some of your readers will have already seen it on social. (Note: be sure to exclude the first batch of paid registrants; they don’t need to get the same email twice).

5. Time to follow up! After a week or two, go back to your list of paid registrants. Have any of them not opened your update email? If so, send a personalized email to check in, make sure they received the information, and offer to answer any questions.

And there you go! You can get it done in an afternoon.

Stuck on what to say? Read on! 😁

 

What to actually say (and how to say it)

 

How you handle this — what you say and how you say it — matters a lot when it comes to trust, customer satisfaction, and the way your audience sees your brand. No pressure, right?

Be sympathetic and succinct. Get to the point; nobody wants to read four paragraphs of you whining about how this experience has been so hard for you and your business. But also? Have empathy for your readers! Understand that this is an upheaval, inconvenience, potential financial hardship, and disappointment for them, too.

Tell ‘em what they need to know. What are the new dates? How will it work? Will their registration automatically transfer? Do they get a refund? What actions (if any) do they need to take?

Your attendees mostly want to know what’s happening and how it affects them.

No, you don’t need to answer every possible question in this email — just the big ones. It’s a great idea to include a link to your FAQ page or invite people to respond with questions. It’ll keep the announcement from getting too long and ensure people can still get their questions answered.

 

Remember: copy is about so much more than just bringing in the money. 

 

How you communicate with your audience and clients after the sale matters just as much — if not more than — how you communicate before you get their money.

If you want to keep your community’s long-term trust, loyalty, and willingness to spend their hard-earned money on your services, experiences, and products, then you’ve gotta take the time to do this right.

Lead with empathy. Make it about their experience instead of your hardship. Give ‘em the information they need to make a decision.

You’ve got this.

 

Sick of hovering over your blank Google doc while you stress-sweat through yet another set of freshly-laundered work-from-home pajamas because you can’t quite settle on what to say and how to say it? Want a pro copywriter with event expertise to come in and tell you what to do — or better yet, do it for you? 🦄 I’m here for ya! Just say the word.