How To Handle A Client Who Cancels On You

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

No matter how good an event manager you are, you’re probably going to have a client bail out on you at some point. Mishandling this unfortunate event could be absolutely catastrophic for your reputation as an event management professional, and as such it’s imperative that you know what to do. Today, we’re going to discuss a few general guidelines and rules of conduct that every event management professional should follow when dealing with a client cancellation.

Make Sure You Have A Good Cancellation Policy

This is more of a pre-emptive step, but make sure that before taking on any clients, you’ve plotted out a cancellation policy. As a general rule, your policy should cover three primary areas. First, you need to establish how much notice a client needs to give before backing out on an event. A good number to set this at is between two weeks to a month, as this gives you plenty of time to take care of the logistics involved with cancelling your event.

Your second concern is finances, namely your refund policy. If your client cancelled because of a breach of contract on your part, you may want to provide them with a partial or total refund. If they cancelled for any other reason, you’re generally going to charge them for services rendered up to that point and nothing more. Some policies also include a cancellation fee, as well – though it’s up to you whether or not you want one.

It might be worthwhile to give client who’ve cancelled on you with proper notice (and for good reason) additional credit on any future events you run for them.

Lastly, you want to establish how you’ll conduct yourself if you’re the one cancelling the event. How much of your fees will be refunded to them? How much notice do you need to give? It’s important that clients know you’ll conduct yourself in a fair and professional manner if things go south– after all, you expect as much of them.   

Contact The Venue

Once you’ve sorted things out with your client, the next step is to contact the venue. Let them know that you won’t be hosting an event with them, and inform them of the reasons behind the cancellation. Note that a lot of venues will have cancellation policies of their own, which may include fees based on the size of the booking and how much notice they received. Be sure to work this into your own contracts. 

Contact Vendors And Event Staff

Next up, you’re going to want to notify your team. Get in touch with any vendors and event staff you’ve brought on to help you with the event. Let them know what happened, and thank them for whatever help they’ve given you thus far. Make sure you keep to any contractual obligations you’ve established with them, which could include reimbursement in one form or another. 

Refund Ticket Sales And Notify Attendees

Last, but certainly not least, it’s time to announce that the event’s not going to be happening. Refund any ticket sales you’ve made, and send out a message to your attendees explaining the unfortunate circumstances that led to the cancellation. Make absolutely certain you refund all ticket sales made through every avenue you’ve managed.

Remain Professional

Sometimes circumstances end up being completely out of our control. With that in mind, don’t burn any bridges – if your client has a legitimate reason for canceling on you, see if they might be interested in postponing their event to a later date instead (or at the very least, hosting an event with you in the future).