Best Practices: Communicating Event Changes

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced many nonprofit organizations to cancel many events. While some are now venturing into outdoor or hybrid events, many are still re-thinking the hosting or format of their events for the rest of 2020. 

In this issue of High Impact Insights, we’ll offer up five best-practice suggestions that will help you better manage the cancellation, rescheduling, virtualization, and future scheduling of your organization’s events.

Best practice #1: Whatever you choose to do, be bold and proactive

Make no mistake: In times of instability, people need certainty and confidence.  

With this in mind, if you have to cancel, reschedule, or virtually reconfigure an event, do it with conviction. Be proactive and take charge of the situation.

When you do this, your attendees and constituents not only appreciate your forthrightness, they offer you grace as you navigate new waters.  If you have ever wanted to innovate or experiment with your events, now is the time to do it! 

Best practice #2: Be specific

In the event you choose to cancel a meeting, gathering or gala, be specific and provide your constituents with the information they need.

For example, if registration fees were associated with the event, will they be refunded? All or a portion of it? Will it be a refund or credit? If awards were to be distributed, how will recipients receive them? Via mail? Personal courier? At the next event?

Be as specific as you can be.

If you don’t yet know the answers, tell them that. In this time of uncertainty, if specifics of the event are still being discussed and decided and give them a date they can expect the information. Knowing that decisions haven’t yet been made and they haven’t missed information along the way in itself can be reassuring.

Best practice #3: Offer an FAQ on your website

Building on best practice #2, it’s always a good idea to create an FAQ section on your website. This is where you should highlight the top five to 10 questions people are most likely to ask.  

For example:

·       Are you postponing, canceling, or moving the event online?

·       What will happen to my current registration? Will I receive a refund?

·       If postponing, what happens if I can’t make the new dates?

·       What can I do to cancel my hotel reservation if need be?

·       I’m a sponsor at your event, how will my sponsorship package be affected?

·       Who can I talk for more information?

By offering an FAQ section, not only will you help your constituents sort out their next steps, but you’ll also be saving time and effort not answering all of these inquiries one at a time.

Best practice #4: When scheduling/re-scheduling your next event, leave plenty of time.

One of the biggest mistakes an organization can make when postponing an event is rescheduling it too soon in the immediate future.  As a result, your supporters and constituents don’t have enough time to work your gathering into their schedule—and they end up cancelling altogether.

This is monumentally frustrating for everyone.  To avoid this, make sure you leave plenty of time in between events so that people can plan and respond accordingly.

Best practice #5: Be careful of the photos and stock-images you choose when marketing your event.

Because we’ve been hosting meetings, trainings, gatherings, and galas for much of our careers, the whole thing has become almost routine. Therein lies the danger. 

In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be very careful which images and photos you choose to use when promoting your event. Pictures of large crowds and tightly packed audiences won’t be received well.  Nor will photos of handshakes and hugs.

Choose your images wisely—they could profoundly impact who attends and who stays home.

Parting thoughts

In this issue of High Impact Insights, we’ve set forth five best practices when it comes to canceling, rescheduling, or moving your meetings, trainings, gatherings, and galas online.

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