Make your event message a pivot not a cancellation

As events are being put on hold or cancelled, Alison Jack, Director of Admire Events, says organisers’ messages need to be less ‘doom & gloom’ and should pivot their messages to a more positive direction.

Bringing an event together takes a level of dedication, time and commitment that few can truly appreciate. This applies no matter how big or small the event might be.

Our tunnel vision on upcoming events has been suddenly broken and I’m seeing a movement to a default position: organisers are waiting to replace that vision in the future.

It’s killing me inside to see the roll-out of cancellation and postponement notifications that are missing an opportunity to pivot and provide value in the interim.

Here is a simplified example of what I’m seeing

As a mother of two young boys if I start any sentence with “You can have a lolly if you do…” Pop whatever you like in that sentence, it doesn’t matter.

They heard the bit about their own self-interest and that’s it.  

They never heard the “if you do….” bit. Getting them to take action beyond this point is often futile or at the very least so much harder because I have to regain their attention, get them focused and then encourage that action ten times more.

But, if I flip this message, if I tell them what I want them to do first, the success rate is a darn sight higher than the above version.

What do these two options of your event messaging look like?

The messaging I’m seeing at the moment goes something like this:

“We are committed to the health and safety of our attendees. With the escalation of the COVID-19 cases and governments advice on non-essential gatherings, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our upcoming event. We are fully committed to delivering this event in the future and we will keep you updated on the progress over the coming weeks and months.”

No call to action, no further and immediate engagement, no next steps. Nada, nothing, zilch, zip, zero.

In any other circumstance, the messaging surrounding an event would not happen like this.

We would never miss an opportunity to encourage people to attend and engage with us. It’s like we are all “deer in the headlights” and can’t see beyond the immediacy of this issue.

So this is what we are going to do

We are going to snap out it.

If you’ve already gone out with the above message don’t fear, all is not lost. My kids still take action if they hear the lolly first, it just means you might have to work a bit harder.

If you haven’t gone out with a message yet, here is what we are going to do.

  • We are going to provide next steps
  • We are going to ask our attendees to engage with us in another format
  • We are going to convey the importance of their ongoing support and what this means for us
  • We are going to build a community and come out stronger
  • We are going to find a way to offer additional opportunities for our sponsors and partners

Above all else, we are going to stop the doom and gloom messages; we are going to make our messages positive and upbeat.

Here are my suggestions on next actions and new messaging

If you are totally frozen on what you can do, take one of these messages below, tweak it for your event, and put it out there. Then, I want you to engage with everyone that was supposed to be at your event from the time you release this message until the time that you hold your event again.

This is so incredibly important.

When the time comes that we all start to bounce back, you want to have built—or retained—strong relationships. You want to have remained at the forefront of people’s minds.

When on the other side of all of this they look to spend a dollar or pick an event to attend, you need to be front and centre of their mind.

Even if you want to take the below as inspiration and come up with your own unique message, remember this: don’t lead with the obvious!

Unless someone has spent the last couple of weeks with their head in the sand, they are going to know what is unfolding around the world. Don’t miss your opportunity to have them take action with you by starting with what they already know.

Here we go

“Wow! Crazy times hey! Thank you so much for registering for our Mother’s Day High Tea event. We’ve created a closed Facebook group for all our event attendees, and we’d love for you to jump over and join us there. This is going to give us the opportunity to get to know one another so well before we even meet face to face. Our organisation would not be able to exist if it wasn’t for the generosity and support we receive from this annual event. We need your help! We’re working with our sponsors so that we can keep them on board moving forward. They will be joining us in the closed Facebook group as their business page and we’d love for you to engage with them. We’ll be rolling out promos and exclusive offers from our sponsors to our attendees in this space so make sure you don’t miss out. Our first offer is already up in the group so head there now before it expires. We will be revealing the new date for our High Tea in the future inside the group in the next couple of weeks. Looking forward to getting to know you more! P.S. If you are not on Facebook, never fear, we will be keeping you updated via email and SMS as well.”

Or

“We are really looking forward to sharing our knowledge with you at our upcoming educational workshop. Everything is prepped and ready to go. We know that you booked an in-person workshop to attend because you are probably a fan of the hard copy workbook, the nice new ballpoint pen that we had for you and the opportunity to converse with others in a similar boat to yourself. What we are going to do is send you a workshop pack in advance of the day so that you can still enjoy these items! In terms of conversing with others, on the day we will give the group the opportunity to “chat amongst yourselves” during breaks online. We’ve also started an excel Google Doc that we’d love for you to jump in and complete now which shares your business information and all of the options for other workshop members to know about and engage with your business in advance of the workshop day. Make sure you follow everyone else’s business as well. Now we know that one of the best bits about a workshop is the food, isn’t! We love to indulge on days like this and we’d hate to see you miss out! So, we have organised you an UberEats voucher for you to pick your own indulgence and have it delivered right to your door on the day of the workshop. We have got you covered! There has been a lot of thought put into this workshop, the exciting content that we have to share with you, and the opportunity for you to learn and grow. We’d hate to see you miss this opportunity that’s why we’ve taken the approach of making this a virtual workshop with all the trimmings of your usual face to face. We are looking forward to seeing you, pen in hand, food of indulgence ready to go and online soon.”

Or 

“We value the education of our industry. Continuing your professional development is paramount, not only to yourself but our wider industry. So that you can achieve the same continuing professional development points within this year we have broken down the content of our upcoming conference into easy to deliver and easy to digest segments. For the same fee, you are going to receive lifetime access to an online portal. You’ll find already in there some of the intended sessions from the conference. Please feel free to log on immediately and begin your learning from the recordings. Over the coming months, we will be holding online webinars and simultaneously live-streaming some sessions into our membership Facebook group, adding value to our entire membership. Once these live sessions are completed a copy will be placed inside your portal. All notes and workbooks associated with each session will be available to download. We have asked some of our speakers to open their diary for booking in one on one sessions after you’ve reviewed their educational content. This is a never seen before access opportunity to increase your knowledge and education directly from some of our speakers. Places in speakers’ diaries are limited so please be sure to book quickly. In the interim to replicate our trade show and sponsor samples, delegates will be receiving a package in the post. We’ve also provided recordings of key sponsor messages and you will find advertising on each page of the portal. Please remember to engage with our sponsors, if it wasn’t for them our organisation representing you to government in these tough times, wouldn’t be able to exist. Diary bookings with our sponsors are available if you’d like to know more. We intend on holding the conference again, in its entirety, later this year or early 2021 bringing you up to date topics and speakers.”

See what a difference this sort of messaging makes?

You feel uplifted and you know what the next action is.

I truly hope the above suggestions have helped you find a way to pivot with your events in the changing landscape.


If the idea of implementing the above suggestions for your event feels overwhelming or you are not sure on the tech that goes behind moving into virtual engagement opportunities or content delivery then please reach out to Admire Events at info@admireevents.com.au to speak. 

We have event cancellation or rejuvenation strategy sessions taking place over the coming weeks.

Image: Elijah O’Donnell, Unsplash