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Event orchestration | 13 March 2020

Postponing Your Event: 5 Examples From Leading Brands During the Pandemic

Brandon Rafalson
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Wondering how to communicate a COVID-19-related event postponement to your attendees? We’ve got examples from Qualtrics, SaaStr, and Coachella.

The reality for many organizers is that the best decision amid a pandemic is to postpone their events. This is especially true following announcements to curtail large gatherings in cities like New York, regions like California, and in some cases full countries (Australia). In our in-depth guide on what event organizers need to know about COVID-19, we discussed a number of ways that organizers can create a health rules plan, structure an on-site preparedness plan, and communicate with attendees.

In order to provide event organizers with a better understanding of how to communicate event cancellations with customers, we’ve compiled the below list of examples from brands like Qualtrics, SaaStr, and Coachella. With each example, we also share the Original Event Date, the Postponement Announcement Date, and the New Event Date.

1. Game Developers Conference

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is an annual gathering of nearly 29,000 designers, programmers, visual artists, and other figures in the game development industry. The organizers of this San Francisco event were ahead of the curve, announcing the postponement of the March 2020 event in February 2020. Unlike some other spring events, however, GDC was pushed to summer 2020.

  • Original Event Date: March 16-20, 2020
  • Postponement Announcement Date: February 20, 2020
  • New Event Date: Summer 2020
After close consultation with our partners in the game development industry and community around the world, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the Game Developers Conference this March.

Having spent the past year preparing for the show with our advisory boards, speakers, exhibitors, and event partners, we’re genuinely upset and disappointed not to be able to host you at this time.

We want to thank all our customers and partners for their support, open discussions and encouragement. As everyone has been reminding us, great things happen when the community comes together and connects at GDC. For this reason, we fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer. We will be working with our partners to finalize the details and will share more information about our plans in the coming weeks.

For more information, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page: www.gdconf.com/faq

See the full GDC postponement announcement here.

2. SaaStr Annual

Although it’s universally difficult to make the decision to postpone an event, the organizers behind SaaStr Annual really wanted the gathering of roughly 15,000 executives and leaders in the tech space to happen. Up until the 11th hour, SaaStr posted extremely thorough health and safety rules and also executed a strong email campaign to assuage the concerns of would-be attendees.

On March 5, 2020, following guidance from the officials of Santa Clara County, California, where the event takes place, the organizers made the tough decision to postpone the event. In this case, they merged an already planned event with content from the postponed event.

  • Original Event Date: March 10-12, 2020
  • Postponement Announcement Date: March 5, 2020
  • New Event Date: September 2020
This evening Santa Clara County issued a statement recommending large community events no longer proceed: “At this time, we recommend postponing or canceling mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.”

Following that and guidance from the CDC, and the growing escalation of the Covid-19 outbreak around the world and in the United States, SaaStr Annual must now be rescheduled and merged with our existing fall event into a new, less formal “SaaStr Bi-Annual” to take place in September 2020.

The event will replace our already planned fall event, SaaStr Scale, and we will increase the size and capacity of Scale to accommodate all attendees and sponsors.

The health and safety of the community is of utmost importance to SaaStr. The clear notification of Santa Clara County this evening makes this action the only prudent course for us. Please know we worked day and night to do everything possible to ensure we provide a world-class and safe event.

We are heartbroken and know this is a very challenging time for everyone, and appreciate your understanding and support. We must follow the edict of the County of Santa Clara and hope to see you in September for Bi-Annual and at 2021 SaaStr Annual Feb 2-4 as well.

See the full SaaStr postponement announcement here.

3. Qualtrics X4

X4 is the flagship event series produced by the experience management software company of Qualtrics. The event was scheduled to convene roughly 16,000 attendees for networking, demos, educational sessions, and the chance to see big-name speakers take the stage. For instance, the program for 2020’s X4 features the likes of Ellen Degeneres, Michelle Obama, and Matthew McConaughey.

Below is an emailed announcement from the Qualtrics X4 team which is expanded upon on the X4 Summit website.

  • Original Event Date: March 10-13, 2020
  • Postponement Announcement Date: March 3, 2020
  • New Event Date: Fall 2020
The health and safety of our customers, employees, and partners is our highest priority.

After careful consideration, and in light of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments, we are postponing X4 to early fall. Rescheduling the 16,000 attendee event will enable us to provide the experience that our customers, partners, and employees expect and deserve in a safe environment.

We remain excited to host you later this year and will get back to you with more information on specific dates in the coming weeks. Your registration will automatically be applied to the rescheduled event. The latest information will always be available at x4summit.com.

Please take a moment to let us know if you have any questions regarding your registration here. Your voice matters, and we care about your feedback.

We look forward to hosting you in the fall. Until then, stay safe and healthy!

Ryan Smith, CEO & Kylan Lundeen, CMO

For more information click here >

See the full Qualtrics X4 postponement announcement here.

4. Coachella

On March 10, 2020, the health officials of the County of Riverside, California, directed the organizers of Coachella to cancel the event. In response, the organizers postponed the event until fall 2020. Goldenvoice, the primary producer behind the event, also postponed its annual Stagecoach country music festival for later in the year.

  • Original Event Date: April 9-19, 2020
  • Postponement Announcement Date: March 10, 2020
  • New Event Date: October 9-18, 2020
At the direction of the County of Riverside and local health authorities, we must sadly confirm the rescheduling of Coachella and Stagecoach due to COVID-19 concerns. While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously. We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.

Coachella will now take place on October 9, 10 and 11 and October 16, 17 and 18, 2020. Stagecoach will take place on October 23, 24 and 25, 2020. All purchases for the April dates will be honored for the rescheduled October dates. Purchasers will be notified by Friday, March 13 on how to obtain a refund if they are unable to attend.

Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to seeing you in the desert this fall.

Full Coachella postponement announcement here.

5. TNW Conference

Although many of the events being postponed were originally scheduled for February, March, or April, some event organizers have planned to get way ahead of the curve and postpone events that were originally scheduled for as far off as June. TNW (The Next Web) Conference is one of those. The large tech event — which anticipated bringing together nearly 20,000 attendees and 3,500 companies from across the world — decided to play it safe, postponing the event until fall 2020.

  • Original Event Date: June 18-19, 2020
  • Postponement Announcement Date: March 3, 2020
  • New Event Date: October 1-2, 2020
TNW today announces that the 2020 edition of their flagship event will be rescheduled to October 1 & 2, 2020. Due to growing concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19), and with the well-being of attendees, partners and staff as the number one priority, TNW has decided that rescheduling the event is the only responsible course of action at this time. This decision was made after consulting with the local government, partners, and staff, to whom TNW would like to express gratitude for their understanding, patience, and continued support.

“Although the decision to reschedule our event wasn’t taken lightly, and the current concerns around the virus might, in hindsight, appear overdone, we were partly inspired by the words of M. Leavitt, DHHS: ‘Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate’.

I hope the world will be able to take adequate action, and that the spread of the virus will soon be contained. Moving forward we’ll focus all of our efforts on making our event in October even better.” — Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, TNW founder & CEO

Ticket holders can refer to the FAQ section on the TNW Conference website for more information.

Full TNW Conference postponement announcement here.

Key Takeaways: How To Postpone Your Event

If you do need to postpone your event, you are not alone. From music festivals to business conferences, organizers are making the decision to postpone their events. Here are a few best practices for postponing your event:

  • Demonstrate that you have been monitoring the situation closely and frame the decision as being in the best interest of your attendees, speakers, and partners.
  • Reach out to attendees at least one week before the event day to save out-of-town travelers from making the trip.
  • Check with your venue and vendors to see if you are contractually covered. If not, see if you can work something out. Chances are that vendors will be understanding of the global moment and will prefer to maintain the relationship they have with you.

Note: If you are a Bizzabo customer whose event plan has been affected by COVID-19, reach out to your Customer Success Manager for information on how we can assist you.