No matter how much time is invested with a client, we have to face the fact that sometimes they cancel.
Engaged couples break up, companies go through unexpected changes, and other obstacles can get in the way of any well-planned time line. For these reasons, it’s imperative for every event professional to be prepared for when this time comes.
Handling a canceled event requires a fine balance of safeguarding your business and understanding the reason behind the sudden change.
The ultimate way to protect your company is to include specific guidelines in the initial contract. You’ll need to include a policy that ensures that the deposit is non-refundable--retainer fees cover the costs of lost business that could have been booked for the same day. Consider including another parameter that designates percentages that are non-refundable after a certain period--for example, stating that 75 percent of the overall costs will not be refunded if the event is canceled within five months, or that no refunds are given if canceled within 90 days.
The specifics depend on several factors--the amount of time until the date in question, whether or not you’ll be able to book another event to recoup the losses, the reason for cancelling, and other company-specific aspects that might come up. Once you decide on what’s best for your business, have your contract checked out by a business coach or an attorney who can guarantee that it’s iron-clad.
For the most part, it’s best to stick to your contract in the case of a canceled events. Your clients have already agreed to the terms, so it’s only prudent to follow the arrangement. That being said, we tend to review them by a case-by-case basis. We are, of course, humans and can sympathize if, for example, a wedding is canceled due to a death in the family or a serious illness. Take a look at the work that has already been done and deal with the situation as it feels right. We’ll even take on the responsibility of calling the other vendors to let them know the bad news. Only you can know what’s best for your business.
If there is still time to book and plan a new event, then that’s just what you need to do. Reach out to any prospects that you’ve had to turn down to let them know of your new opening and promote the date on social media. Since you may not have quite as much time to plan, consider offering a discount on the date keeping in mind that you held the deposit from the previous event.
In the unfortunate case that you cannot fill the empty date, don’t fret about it. Move on and put extra effort into the other events you have on your plate--being distraught won’t solve anything!
Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.