Thinking Ahead: How To Get A Cancelled Event Back On-Track

Whilst our calendars might currently be cleared of all gatherings that involve anything more than a webcam and the occasional WiFi glitch, now's the perfect time to think ahead and work out how your business can get the ball rolling with any events you've been forced to postpone.

If you’ve been working on an event for months, delaying it can be heartbreaking –  and even more so if you were close to the finish line. Even if there were still months to go until the big day, we’re confident that you and your team will have put considerable work and effort into something that you're now having to plan again almost from scratch. The good news? It's 100% doable, and even more so with the help of our simple tips.


Whether you’re planning a trade show, an industry conference, a press launch or an industry awards, there are all sorts of intricacies involved in rearranging a postponed occasion. You might even be planning a sporting event (delighted football fans will no doubt have heard about the Premier League's 'Project Restart' efforts) or an entertainment gig – whatever the occasion, whoever the audience and however large or small the guest list, there is a variety of moving pieces involved that you’ll have to try and fit into a new timeframe.

Thousands of events have been cancelled across the UK this spring, so the good news is that your brand isn’t alone in facing the postponement predicament. However, the way you handle the situation is what will make your business stand out from the crowd. This isn’t a scenario of your creation, no, but how you deal with it is entirely up to you and your team, as well as a reflection of your business.

First & Foremost: Be Upfront With The People Involved

Presumably, you’ve been straight-up with ticket-holders from the word ‘go’. (And if you weren’t at the stage of having sold tickets or sent out invites yet, all the better.) Being upfront in terms of your communication is key to maintaining a positive relationship with your guest list and unless you choose to scrap the event entirely, maintaining honest and open communication can help avoid too many cancellations and refunds.

Put simply, no customer should have to 'angry-Tweet' your business to find out what’s going on. 

Be upfront with all the people involved – as well as the customers, odds are there are exhibitors, speakers and/or suppliers involved who will need to be kept up to speed, too. Keep them on-side by communicating clearly from the off - and chances are, they'll have experienced cancellations or postponements before that they can share their experiences of.

If you’re going it alone and hadn’t factored a pandemic into your contingency plans (funny, that), don’t worry. Sure, you might not have the immediate support network of a direct team of colleagues but you can still find sources of support. Look to online networks of peers for advice, turn to LinkedIn for support or recommendations and, in short, don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Consider Turning It Into An Online Event

If you haven’t already, it’s worth thinking about. If your event is time-reliant, giving consideration to transferring it from IRL to online might be a smart move. Even if guests are unable to attend in person – whether it’s a conference or a demo of your latest product range – you can still interact (almost) as you would in-person. This also gives you the option to send virtual attendees info via email or through the post afterwards; products such as our best selling USB Flashdrive Twist can be uploaded with your data in advance, giving delegates fuss-free access to speaker slides or product information. 

Alternatively, consider making certain elements of your event - or even the whole thing - virtual. For example; could you give customers the option to attend via video-streaming technology on their phones or computers? Chances are a chunk of them might prefer having the option to participate from the comfort of their own homes. Whether you opt to stream via Facebook Live or host a conference via Zoom (on that note: be sure to check out our tips for looking professional on video calls!), there is a wide range of options available.

If taking your event online is a possibility, consider some tech giveaways that can help enhance the experience for your guests; branded power banks, for example, will ensure their smartphones stay powered-up for the duration of the event. Similarly, promotional headphones might prove useful for attendees who wish to focus on your event without background distraction.

Send A Gift To Would-Be Attendants On The Day Itself

You might not have a new date in mind quite yet but even just reminding customers that the event is still going to happen can be a great way to retain interest and avoid negativity. If you have already sold tickets and are keen to avoid refunds where possible, it's important to pay attention to your paying customers.

Make them feel special whilst also subtly reminding them that the postponement is through no fault of your own. Use it as a unique opportunity to generate even more excitement for the event that's still to come, as soon as restrictions and guidelines allow. 

If budgets permit, consider sending would-be attendants an appropriate gift on the day along with a message that thanks them for their understanding. For example: if you’re planning a festival, you could consider sending ticket-holders our printed Glow Sticks (shown above), along with an exclusive invite to tune into a Facebook Live DJ session with one of the acts who were due to perform.

Alternatively, if you’re working on a conference, you could invite attendants to an exclusive taster session with one of your speakers; as well as providing them with a date and time for the online session, you could also send them one of our branded notebooks so they can scribble down key takeaways from the speakers.

From promotional teddy bears to branded bunting, explore our full range of branded giveaways for events.

Use Unexpected Free Time To Get Ahead With Your Planning

There’s no time like the present to get organised – and if you’re faced with a brief lull in terms of workload, now is the ideal opportunity to get all the ‘niggly’ bits ticked off your planning to-do list. From designing an event programme to ordering the last-minute details (we're looking at you, promotional lanyards), now's the perfect time to get tasks ticked off.

Also, give consideration to what will make the event a success. Depending on the type of event you're planning, the measure of success can range from 'coverage in magazines' to 'five-star reviews on Facebook'. Having a clear vision of the feeling you want customers to leave the event with - as well as the ROI your business wants to see back - can help clarify any question marks that might be hanging over the planning process.

Keep Anticipation Building Via Customer Comms

Now’s not the time to go on a social media detox, people. Chances are your customers are currently spending more time than ever before on their phones, tablets and computers – so ensure your event is a part of the conversation by sharing and engaging on all the major social media channels. Create memes, write blogs, engage with trending topics... In a nutshell: get involved. 

Work out if there is anything more you can do to stretch your resources for customers at the moment. From hosting an industry Zoom quiz night (with an NHS-fundraising twist) to planning Instagram giveaways that encourage your customers to engage with your brand, there is a variety of ways you can ensure your business stays visible in customers' minds.

Take it one step further by sending attendees branded giveaways; our ranges of promotional products to show gratitude and mail-out merchandise are both packed with brilliant items that your customers will be delighted to receive. Along with the product, include details of your social channels and any event-related hashtags and watch the tagged posts roll in...

Be Aware Of The Likely 'New Normal' Your Event Will Be Facing

With weeks of social distancing behind us, it’s unlikely your attendees will relish the thought of being crammed into a tightly-packed venue - and chances are your venue might have something to say about it, too! You could need to work out a new set of logistics that will ensure your event complies with any government-set guidelines.

For example, you might need to factor in an appropriate social distancing between delegates - so could you consider hosting a morning session and an afternoon session to split the crowd and make people feel more comfortable? Equally, your venue might be reopening later than anticipated, meaning you might need to find a new venue or be happy to delay your event to match their timeframe. 

Be mindful of the hygiene element of your event, too. At the very least, providing basic hygiene products – branded hand sanitiser, custom-printed tissues and perhaps even disposable face masks – will be expected at pretty much any upcoming occasion, from weddings and graduations to industry fairs and launch parties. We have a wide range of promotional health items available, all of which can be branded with your logo for awareness with every use!

In short, there are all sorts of things your business can do to get its postponed event back on-track and make customer relationships and brand awareness even stronger in the process. We’d love to hear your top tips for organising a delayed event – email us or tweet your suggestions to @tm_ltd_uk

From promotional giveaways to thank customers to working from home essentials for colleagues, Total Merchandise has all the branded items your business could need. Need help finding a specific item? Simply contact a member of our friendly and experienced Sales team on 01376 509092 or email! Visit our Coronavirus Hub for more information and updates.

Main image via Pexels.

Written by

David Stoddart | Co-Founder and Systems Director

As our co-founder and Systems Director, David has close to two decades of expertise within the promotional merchandise industry, with a specialist focus on our systems and processes. Under the guidance of David and the other co-founders, Total Merchandise has become one of the UK's leading suppliers of promotional products. With his finger on the pulse of both the industry and in-house activity, David oversees technical operations and prides himself on the 5* experience we offer suppliers and customers. Passionate about photography and off-road driving, he can often be found with his camera in hand or listening to a wide range of music genres.

Connect with David Stoddart on LinkedIn Connect with David Stoddart on LinkedIn

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