How to communicate a COVID-19 related event postponement to your attendees. Featuring examples from Qualtrics, SaaStr, and Coachella.
Last week, we published an in-depth guide on what event organizers need to know about COVID-19. Among other topics, we discussed a number of ways that organizers can create a health rules plan, structure an on-site preparedness plan, and communicate with attendees.
The reality is that, for many organizers, the best decision may be to postpone their events. This is especially so following announcements to curtail large gatherings in cities like New York, larger regions like California, and in some cases full countries like Australia.
In order to provide event organizers with a better understanding of how to communicate event cancellations with customers, we've compiled the below list of examples from brands like Qualtrics, SaaStr, and Coachella.
With each example we also share the Original Event Date, the Postponement Announcement Date, and the New Event Date.
We plan to update this list with more relevant examples as the situation evolves.
5 Examples of How to Announce an Event Postponement
1. Game Developers Conference
Game Developers Conference (GDC) is an annual gathering of nearly 29,000 designers, programmers, visual artists, and other figures in the game development industry. The organizers of this San Francisco event were ahead of the curve, announcing the postponement of the March event in February.
Unlike some other spring events, GDC was pushed to summer, not fall, of 2020.
Original Event Date: March 16 - March 20, 2020
Postponement Announcement Date: February 20, 2020
New Event Date: Summer 2020
After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March.
2. SaaStr Annual
While it's universally difficult to make the decision to postpone an event, the organizers behind SaaStr Annual really wanted the gathering of roughly 15,000 executive and leaders in the tech space to happen. Up until the 11th hour they posted extremely thorough health and safety rules, and also executed a strong email campaign to assuage the concerns of would-be attendees.
On March 5, 2020 following guidance from the officials of Santa Clara County where the event takes place, the organizers made the tough decision to postpone their event. In this case, they merged an already planned event with content from the postponed event.
Original Event Date: March 10 - March 12, 2020
Postponement Announcement Date: March 5, 2020
New Event Date: September 2020
This evening Santa Clara County issued a statement recommending large community events no longer proceed: “At this time, we recommend postponing or canceling mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.”
Following that and guidance from the CDC, and the growing escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak around the world and in the United States, SaaStr Annual must now be rescheduled and merged with our existing fall event into a new, less formal “SaaStr Bi-Annual” to take place in September 2020.
The event will replace our already planned fall event, SaaStr Scale, and we will increase the size and capacity of Scale to accommodate all attendees and sponsors.
The health and safety of the community is of utmost importance to SaaStr. The clear notification of Santa Clara County this evening makes this action the only prudent course for us. Please know we worked day and night to do everything possible to ensure we provide a world-class and safe event.
We are heartbroken and know this is a very challenging time for everyone, and appreciate your understanding and support. We must follow the edict of the County of Santa Clara and hope to see you in September for Bi-Annual and at 2021 SaaStr Annual Feb 2-4 as well.
3. Qualtrics X4
X4 is the flagship event series produced by the experience management software company of Qualtrics. The event was scheduled to convene roughly 16,000 attendees for networking, demos, educational sessions and the chance to see big name speakers take the stage. For instance, the program for 2020's X4 features the likes of Ellen Degenres, Michelle Obama and Matthew McConaughey.
Below is an emailed announcement from the Qualtrics X4 team which is expanded upon on the X4 Summit website.
Original Event Date: March 10 - March 13, 2020
Postponement Announcement Date: March 3, 2020
New Event Date: Fall 2020
The health and safety of our customers, employees, and partners is our highest priority.
After careful consideration, and in light of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments, we are postponing X4 to early fall. Rescheduling the 16,000 attendee event will enable us to provide the experience that our customers, partners, and employees expect and deserve in a safe environment.
We remain excited to host you later this year and will get back to you with more information on specific dates in the coming weeks. Your registration will automatically be applied to the rescheduled event. The latest information will always be available at x4summit.com.
Please take a moment to let us know if you have any questions regarding your registration here. Your voice matters, and we care about your feedback.
We look forward to hosting you in the fall. Until then, stay safe and healthy!
Ryan Smith, CEO & Kylan Lundeen, CMO
On March 10, the health officials of the County of Riverside, California directed the organizers of Coachella to cancel the event. In response, the organizers postponed the event till Fall of 2020.
Goldenvoice, the primary producer behind the event, also postponed their annual Stagecoach country music festival for later in the year.
Original Event Date: April 9 - April 19, 2020
Postponement Announcement Date: March 10, 2020
New Event Date: October 9 - October 18, 2020
At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.
5. TNW Conference
While many of the events being postponed were originally scheduled for February, March, or April some event organizers have planned to get way ahead of the curve and postpone events that were originally scheduled for as far off as June.
TNW (The Next Web) Conference is one of those. The large tech event—which anticipated bringing together nearly 20,000 attendees and 3,500 companies from across the world—decided to play it safe, postponing the event til Fall 2020.
Original Event Date: June 18 - June 19, 2020
Postponement Announcement Date: March 3, 2020
New Event Date: October 1 - October 2, 2020
TNW today announces that the 2020 edition of their flagship event will be rescheduled to October 1 & 2, 2020. Due to growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19), and with the well-being of attendees, partners and staff as the number one priority, TNW has decided that rescheduling the event is the only responsible course of action at this time. This decision was made after consulting with the local government, partners, and staff, to whom TNW would like to express gratitude for their understanding, patience, and continued support.
Wrapping Up: Postponing Your Event
If you do need to postpone your event, you are not alone. From music festivals to business conferences, organizers are making the decision to postpone their events or—in some cases—are having their hands forced by local authorities.
Best practices for postponing your event:
- Demonstrate that you have been monitoring the situation closely and frame the decision as being in the best interest of your attendees, speakers and partners.
- Reach out to attendees at least one week before the event day to save out-of-town travelers from making the trip.
- Check with your venue and vendors to see if you are contractually covered. If not, see if you can work something out. Chances are that vendors will be understanding of the global moment and will prefer to maintain the relationship they have with you.
Note: If you are a Bizzabo customer whose event plan has been affected by COVID-19, reach out to your Customer Success Manager for information on how we can assist you.