That is the question. In our field of the arts, there are times when we do have to consider canceling an event. When the risks outweigh the perceived outcome, canceling may have to be an option. So, what should be carefully thought out before opting to cancel an event? I have some questions for you to apply:
- How much time is left to promote the event? If your sales are looking bleak, is there enough time to bounce back? If you have 6 weeks or more, you may simply want to up your promotional game, and apply audience development methods to change your outcome. If you have less time, you might need to consider canceling.
- Have you looked at the financial numbers? Maybe you need to at least break even. What would it take to break even? Perhaps your ticket price was too high. Could you change the pricing? Are you able to give the difference of the full ticket price back to the people that have already purchased (at least ask them since they might be okay with allowing you to keep the full priced payment)? What other options do you have to break even? Can you cut costs somewhere? Can you find more in-kind donations? Perhaps you could find a sponsor?
- What strategic discounts could you give? This is the time for creative thinking on how to get other people to help promote your event. Could you offer an incentive program for people to promote, such as if a certain amount of people purchase through their efforts, you can give them a discount or up to a free ticket? If your ticketing application allows for this type of tracking, this could be a good solution.
- Do you have time for social media contests? Any way you can build buzz for your event on social media will help your chances for turning the outcome around to your favor. Look to see what types of interactive games, contests, etc. are doing well on social media, and attempt to create your own version.
- Would canceling damage your reputation? Sometimes you do have to cancel, but if you are a relatively newer arts business, a cancellation might create distrust from your audience members. They might be thinking, “Will they cancel again?” If you do have enough time, consider not canceling and do whatever you can to at least get to the break even point.
- What can you do to increase publicity exposure? A big reason why events have low attendance is simply because not enough people heard about it. Audience development helps increase awareness, and a really good story in a main media outlet can as well. If you know people in the media, and there is time, now is the moment to contact them personally and see if they can help you. I use this option sparingly, but sometimes it does work to ask for their support on a personal level. There are some really nice people in the media, especially if you get to know them. Also, are you listed everywhere people would look for something to do (places that make sense for what you have to offer)?
- What can you do to spread the word? You will have to be honest. How proactive have you been for talking to people about the event? Did you just take out an advertisement and hope for the best, or did you send personal emails to friends, family, colleagues, organizations, groups, clubs, associations, etc.? Did you message people on Facebook? Could you get more volunteers, interns, your board members, to add promotional energy? The name of the game at this point is to get as many people spreading the word as possible!
- Do you have quality content on social media and your website? If you have the time, evaluate your social media/website content for the event. Is it simply a flat picture with the marketing details? It is time to up your game with content that is more dynamic! Show the background of the event, the people involved, and the ins and outs of how you are making it come to life. Share your stories, not just your marketing. The more you can get an emotional response from your content, the more likely people will be interested in sharing and purchasing a ticket.
- Can you delay the event slightly? Maybe you just need a little more time. If there are no big logistics involved that cannot be moved, you might be able to change the date slightly into the future. Same everything, just a different time. Always check this option out before canceling.
- Do you have the energy to do what you can to make it successful? As you can see, there are many reasons why an event may have fallen flat. One reason is that you and your staff might be super burnt out. If you do not have the positive energy, canceling may have to be an option. If you can get more help both business wise and personally (interns, volunteers, hired help), possibly you can save the event. If it falls on a few people to save the day, and they just don’t have it in them, canceling might have to be the answer.
If you do have to cancel, make sure you communicate as soon as you can with the audiences. For the people that already purchased a ticket, you know that you need to either do a refund or exchange for another event, but also offer them something extra on top of this action (perhaps a discount to another event). These people were loyal despite the rest of the world, and you want them to know you realize how special they are!
Do all you can to consider not canceling an event. If you do have to cancel, be as graceful about it as possible, get some rest and new perspective, and then look toward the next event to apply extra positive energy for building your audiences and support.
Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,
Chief Audience Builder, Audience Development Specialists
Top 20 Tips for Increasing Everything Webinar
Shoshana is back to share her favorite Top 20 tips for audience development. Enjoy this recorded webinar for a reminder of simple, common sense ideas that are not being commonly practiced. Implementing just one of these ideas will help you to build your audiences and support!
Get access to this webinar here!