Third in a series of recommendations from Denver event planner Lonnie Somers.

As if it isn’t already stressful enough in planning out an even with every thing and “moving part” that goes into it, it is even more stressful when faced with the negative possibility of having to cancel (or postpone) your event. Under the current circumstances, we urge you, regardless when your event is, to have a plan in place of how you will decide and handle cancelling your event.

There are many things to consider.

Governmental mandate – Your event may have no choice but to cancel if there is a mandate by the government (federal, state, or local). If that is the case, the decision is out of your hands. You need to be sure you are keeping informed about all restrictions where your event is due to take place. Despite State’s stay-at-home orders, some municipalities have put in place bans on mass gatherings that are at later dates than stay-at-home orders. Some have even banned and canceled events through the end of August in some areas of the United States already. Check with your permitting agencies or event company to be sure you know what the latest mandates are.

Your event could also be under mandates to size allowed. If your event cannot be viable with caps in participation, you may need to cancel.

Economic considerations – There are several economic considerations around if it is feasible to carry out your event such as follows.

Participant disposable income – A vast majority of households are cutting their spending due to loss of income/employment, or protecting their cash as much as possible. With the uncertainty, not only are people hording toilet paper, food, etc., they are also holding onto their cash. We no doubt know that people want to help when they can, but they are also worried about their own personal situation and that means they may not sign up for as many events and/or donate like they have been able to in the past. Plan that you may see a significant reduction in registrations and donations.
Sponsorship decline – Every business, just like your participants, are being economically and negatively affected. We have seen many businesses are working hard to make it a priority to support important causes, it stands to reason some may have to pull back their contributions and number of events they can support. Be sure to communicate with your sponsors and find out their ability to commit. Now also might be a good time to help them out as well to encourage them to help with more sponsorship benefits (or reduction in pricing on your levels).

If your event may not be able to cover your expenses due to decline in revenues, you may be best off cancelling all together or focusing on virtual options.

Participant confidence – Every person would love to wake up tomorrow with the news the pandemic is over and see us all in the streets shaking hands, giving hugs, and celebrating that we got through this. That is a nice dream, but in reality, this is not how it is going to happen. Until the mass majority of people feel safe (safe from getting COIVD-19 and safe from transmitting it), they are going to feel uneasy about large gatherings. This may not be how you personally feel, but some initial statistics are indicating that even if mass gatherings were allowed, only about one (1) out of every (5) people would feel comfortable or consider even being in large gatherings.

Be sure you are also considering your main demographic at your event. If you could have a higher population of higher risk participants, you need to be sure you can keep them safe from exposure.

Further, will you have enough “ramp up” time to allow for registration after mass gathering restrictions are lifted.

Event expenses – With the uncertainty of how to plan for how many registrants and sponsorship (revenues) you may have, the cost and upfront outlay of cash for permits, insurance, shirts, medals, etc. is very challenging. Generally, you need to purchase and pay for these items months in advance. If you over order vs how many registrants you have, then your expenses can easily be greater than your revenues. Additionally, if there are mandates/requirements for limiting potential contamination, you will have more expense in providing these measures (and even possibility of challenge securing them). We have seen some events, even late summer/early fall cancel their event in order to be sure they can maintain viability and be back in 2021 versus having to risk the expenses up front and potentially threaten their ability as a going concern.

To Cancel or Postpone – About four (4) weeks ago we recommended that if you can postpone, you should and reschedule. Don’t cancel unless you absolutely had to. Our professional recommendation is now don’t even consider postponing (This is hard because we know how important the event is to have, including all the small businesses/contractors that make their living serving you).

Don’t get us wrong, if you can postpone and still be able to absorb the potential of lower revenues while ensuring limited contamination and you have the availability of all of your suppliers, by all means go that route.

Why Cancel? There are various reasons, as follows, as to why it may be better to cancel than postpone:

Venue availability – your venue may be limited in dates availability if any at all.

Competition – with events that have been able postpone to new dates already, those events area already competing against a busy late summer, fall, and winter event schedule. All these events will be competing for some portion of the same demographic participant which then will see reduced participation numbers. Plan that you could see from a 25% to 50% reduction in planned participants.

Timelines to your 2021 event – As an example, say your event was to take place in March 2020, then you postponed to a Sept/Oct date. Would you be able to and successfully plan two events within in six (6) to seven (7) months of each other? Would you be able to secure sponsorship dollars and registration dollars for both? As we know, there already never seems to be enough time to get an event fully planned within a twelve (12) month period, let alone two within a very short time frame.

Should we move to virtual – If you have to cancel your original event, we highly recommend moving to a virtual event, if it is feasible for you. We will go into more discussion around virtual options. Regardless though, as we will talk about next, you should have a virtual option available for those that may be uncomfortable participating in person, but still want to support and be part of your event.

Other options – another thing to consider is joining forces with another event and co-produce an event together to share costs and save, or even see about options to piggy back on another event. This is not an ideal situation, but the opportunity to still have an event in some fashion while reducing or eliminating some costs might be a way to still have your event with limiting the cost and uncertainty risk.

HAL Sports is working on some plans to allow our clients that have had to cancel their events to be part of one of our events in the late fall or early winter. We will have more details coming in the next few weeks, but if you would like to inquire more about this, please contact us.

More posts in this series:

COVID-19 and Events Series Post #1: Current and Likely State for 2020

COVID-19 Event Series #2: What should you be doing to protect your event

COVID-19 Events Series #3: What to consider in cancelling (or postponing) your event

COVID-19 Event Series #4: Considerations for moving to a Virtual Event



We have always been and always will be there for you to support you, your events, and your causes in any way we can. We always have your back and work hard to do all the research, find best practices, and help you navigate all the challenges you may face. We are here to make everything as easy for you as possible and be the experts for you, especially in crisis situations.

We are here to help, and here are some of the offerings we are providing to you under this pandemic at no cost or minimal cost.

Virtual Run Management – we can manage fully your virtual event in all aspects
Virtual Run Fulfillment – we will fulfill all your event packets, mailing, and distribution to participants
Consulting – we can provide additional consulting to your organization on any of the areas we have covered in this guide.
Video Messaging – Lonnie, who announces many events professionally, can record video messaging that can go out to your participants with updates and news about your event.
Virtual Event Announcing/Hosting – Lonnie is available to virtual host/emcee your event with live video, recorded sound, etc.

Need something else? Just drop us a line!!!


Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash