Event Marketing & Planning

Event Cancellation Guide: What to Do When You Need to Cancel

The Eventcube Team
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Even the most meticulously planned events can sometimes fall victim to unforeseen circumstances. As an event organizer, you will understand the immense effort of crafting a successful experience for your attendees. But what happens when things take a turn for the worse, and you're faced with the difficult decision to cancel?

This guide will equip you with the tools to navigate the cancellation process gracefully and clearly. We'll delve into the various reasons why events might get called off, from the predictable – like poor weather conditions – to the completely unexpected, such as a global pandemic. We'll also explore how to communicate effectively with your audience, minimize disappointment, and even salvage the situation, if possible.

Common Reasons For Events Being Cancelled

Poor weather conditions

Sometimes, the biggest challenge comes from the sky above. Events, especially those held outdoors, can be significantly impacted by inclement weather. From torrential downpours and blinding blizzards to heat waves and high winds, extreme weather can pose safety risks to attendees, staff, and equipment. Canceling in such instances demonstrates your commitment to prioritizing everyone's well-being. Ensure to communicate this in your public service announcement.

Low attendance / ticket sales

While bad weather is an external factor, a low attendance rate speaks to the internal planning of the event. If ticket sales fall short of expectations, the event might not be financially viable. This can be a tough pill to swallow, but canceling under these circumstances allows you to re-evaluate your strategy and potentially move your event to a new date with a more targeted approach.

Speaker or performer cancellation

You can't control others' priorities, circumstances, and health conditions, not even when these people are your front acts and headline speakers. In most events, these artists and personalities are the buy-into the event. If they're unable to show up, you may need to cancel at the risk of false advertisement. Rescheduling the event may be your best option.

Unforeseen circumstances

Life, as they say, is what happens while you're making plans. Beyond weather and attendance, a range of unforeseen circumstances can necessitate an event cancellation. Labor strikes can disrupt logistics and venue access, transportation breakdowns can prevent speakers or attendees from reaching the event, and global pandemic, like the one we've recently witnessed, can pose a significant public health risk. Clear and timely communication is paramount in such situations to navigate the disruption and manage attendee expectations.

A photo of a person writing on a full notebook planner

The 5-step event cancellation guide

So, you've made the difficult decision to cancel your event. Now what? Here's a step-by-step guide to ensure a smooth cancellation process that minimizes disappointment and protects your event's reputation:

1. Stop ticket sales immediately

The first step is to halt any further ticket sales. This prevents confusion and ensures you're not creating expectations that can't be met. Update your event website and ticketing platform to reflect the cancellation.

2. Post a public service announcement

Next, draft a clear and concise public service announcement (PSA) announcing the cancellation. This PSA should be posted on your event website and social media platforms. Briefly explain the reason for cancellation and express your sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. It also helps to anticipate questions from customers. Gather them in an FAQ page.

3. Set expectations for refunds

Be upfront and transparent about the refund policy. Typically, cancelled events should guarantee a full refund, including booking fees. Briefly outline the process for attendees. Include details on when they can expect to receive their ticket refunds. Will they be automatic, or will attendees need to submit a request? If there are any exceptions or limitations to the refund policy, clearly communicate them here.

4. Send follow-up email

A personalized email to registered attendees demonstrates that you value their interest and participation. Thank them for their interest in the event and reiterate the reason for cancellation. Reiterate the refund process and provide a timeline for when they can expect to receive their money back.

5. Regain faith through gifts and discounts

Let your attendees know they're valued. Offer a special discount or incentive for a future event you're hosting. This could be a discount code, early access to tickets for the next event, or even a free ticket upgrade. This goodwill gesture shows your commitment to their future participation and helps maintain a positive relationship with your audience.

A photo of a post it note with "sorry" written on it stuck to a white mug

How to gracefully communicate that your cancelling an event

Delivering the news of a canceled event is never easy. However, by following these communication best practices, you can minimize disappointment and maintain a positive relationship with your audience:

1. Announce your cancellation as soon as you possibly can

Don't delay in informing your attendees. The sooner you communicate the cancellation, the sooner they can adjust their plans. Be upfront and transparent about the reason for cancellation, avoiding any ambiguity that might lead to confusion.

2. Provide a clear, valid reason

While you don't need to go into excruciating detail, explain the reason for cancellation clearly and honestly. This builds trust and demonstrates that the decision was well-considered. Emphasize why canceling the event was the best option, not only for event planners but also for existing ticket holders and everyone involved. Check out Eventcombo's comprehensive guide on writing empathic event cancellation emails. They list some excellent email templates from which you can take inspiration.

3. Be empathetic

Recognize that your attendees were looking forward to the event. Acknowledge their disappointment and express your sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused. Many event attendees pay for flights and accommodations alongside tickets. If you're keen to keep the buzz alive, you may suggest activities attendees can explore around the event location.

4. Provide clear next steps

Don't leave your attendees hanging. Clearly outline the next steps for them. Refunds are always top-of-mind during these unexpected situations but also communicate prospective dates and locations if you go down the rescheduling route.

5. Offer a consolation gift

Consider offering a consolation gift as a goodwill gesture. This could be a discount code for a future event, exclusive access to pre-sale tickets, or even a digital download of a relevant resource. This small token shows your appreciation for their understanding and encourages them to stay connected with your future endeavors.

Always have an event contingency plan

While cancellations are never ideal, having a contingency plan in place can significantly improve how you navigate these situations in the future.

An event contingency plan is a proactive strategy that outlines alternative actions to address potential problems that might arise before, during, or after your event. By anticipating potential roadblocks, you can develop solutions that minimize disruption and ensure a smooth event experience, even if unexpected occurs.

Reschedule your event

Sometimes, the best course of action is to reschedule your event for a later date. This allows you to maintain the core elements of your scheduled event while ensuring a safer or more suitable environment for attendees. When considering rescheduling, be sure to choose a new event date that doesn't conflict with major holidays or other events in your target audience's calendar.

On Eventcube, rescheduling is easy. You'll only need to update your event date and resend the email confirmation to each customer who purchased a ticket. Tickets are automatically updated with the new event details. If you're on Eventcube Pro, you can request that customer support resend ticket confirmation in bulk.

Consider getting event cancellation insurance

Event insurance can provide financial protection in case of unforeseen circumstances that force you to cancel your event. Different policies and insurance providers offer varying degrees of coverage, so be sure to carefully review the terms and conditions before purchasing. Event insurance can provide peace of mind and help you recoup some of your financial losses in the event of a cancellation. Learn more about event insurance over on AllState's excellent blog.

Offer booking refund insurance to customers

Another way to mitigate risk for your attendees is by offering booking refund insurance. Attendees can purchase this optional add-on at the time of ticket purchase, effectively allowing them to claim a ticket refund when they're unable to attend the event due to unforeseen circumstances on their end. Should they fall ill or be hindered by a transport crisis, they can get reimbursement for their ticket cost, even if it falls outside your standard refund policy. Offering booking refund insurance demonstrates customer focus and can incentivize early ticket purchases.

Have a standard guide to event cancellation for your team

A well-defined event cancellation protocol ensures that team members, new and old, can act quickly and appropriately as soon as cancellation is decided. This guide should outline specific steps your team needs to take, including:

  • Communication hierarchy. Identify who is responsible for drafting and disseminating cancellation announcements (e.g., event manager, public relations team).
  • Communication channels. Determine the various communication channels to be used (e.g., website, social media, email).
  • Refund policy: Ensure everyone is familiar with your refund policy and the process for issuing refunds to attendees.
  • Team member roles: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member during the cancellation process.


When the time comes to make the difficult decision to cancel an event, having a well-thought-out plan is crucial. From gracefully communicating the news to considering rescheduling or offering refunds, each step impacts your attendees and reputation. Remember, legal protection and event insurance are valuable safeguards. By being transparent and proactive, you can navigate cancellations with professionalism and empathy. For more detailed insights on managing event cancellations effectively, redirect to our comprehensive guide.

Frequently Asked Questions About Event Cancellations

How do I legally protect my event in case of cancellation?

Consider drafting a solid contract with clear cancellation clauses to legally protect your event in case of cancellation. Consult with legal experts to ensure compliance with regulations and safeguard your interests. Implementing event insurance can also provide financial protection.

Can I reschedule an event instead of canceling it?

Yes, you can reschedule an event instead of canceling. It's a great option to minimize disruption and maintain engagement. Consider logistics, communication, and attendee convenience when deciding.

What are the best ways to communicate event cancellation to attendees?

Utilize various communication channels like email, social media, and website updates. Be transparent and empathetic, and offer clear instructions. Personalize messages when possible for a more human touch. Timing is crucial; inform attendees promptly and provide regular updates.

How can I minimize financial losses from an event cancellation?

Consider rescheduling the event, investing in event insurance, and offering booking refunds to mitigate financial losses. Planning ahead with an event contingency plan can also help minimize the impact of an unexpected cancellation.

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