Situation Report: Reducing Cancellations and Retaining Clients

The Event Leadership Institute checks in weekly with a select group of event planning business owners across the US and Canada. Group members report on how their businesses are faring and offer coping strategies amid the massive disruption from COVID-19. We call it the Situation Room. Recently, the conversation covered reducing cancellations and retaining clients.

Event Leadership Institute will continue sharing insight and experiences from the Situation Room on our blog. Check back with us for more.

Rebooking events

The most immediate way to avoid an outright cancellation is to lean into rebooking the event. Some ways to do so include:

  • Explain to clients that recurring events cancelled in the current year but rescheduled for the following year will be 25% to 30% lower in costs because much of the work has already been completed.
  • Attempt to secure space for rebooked events at the same venues as few are returning deposits.
  • Look for alternative or non-traditional venues for new events since traditional venues, such a hotels, will be in high demand when rebooked events start to “stack up.”

Getting in on virtual events

Many clients are virtualizing their live events. While the trend is temporarily sidelining live-event agencies from live-event logistics, it’s opening up new opportunities for them to stay involved with clients. Some of the areas of virtual event execution that are still open to agencies include:

  • Swag purchasing and distribution
  • Content and programming
  • Run of show/scripting/choreography
  • Speaker preparation and coaching

Preparing Plan B

Clients are skittish about whether agencies are financially stable and operationally viable amidst layoffs and cancellations. A telephone call to update them on how your business is weathering the COVID-19 storm is a good idea. A detailed explanation (as some prospective clients have requested) on how your business has adjusted can include:

  • Post-layoff organizational chart
  • Project execution plan (perhaps using freelancers or a temporary staffing agency)
  • Ways to handle client deposits (escrow, for example)

Proving the value of established agencies

Some business owners are concerned about a post COVID-19 period in which more competition (people who open their own agencies or companies that add event planning to their service portfolios) drives down margins. Communicating the value of experience, staying in regular communication with existing clients and maintaining visibility in the marketplace can help companies promote their value and retain clients.