By Frank Smith:
“Due to COVID-19 I need to…” We all know what comes next in that dreaded email. One of two words that no event professional wants to hear. “Reschedule.” Or even worse. “CANCEL!”
Event professionals all over are hearing from their clients that have events scheduled during their state’s restrictions. Some are even hearing this for events scheduled way after their state restrictions are set to end. Due to their fears. Due to the safety of their guests traveling from out of town. Due to guest count limitations. Regardless of your opinion of COVID-19, these are concerns that we should all empathize with.
Then the internal debate rages on. Should I allow them to reschedule? Charge them a fee? Give them a refund? Can I afford to give them a refund? There are two goals here: to be as accommodating to the client as possible without giving away the house and keeping your business afloat during this time. Work with your client as much as possible and collaborate to come to a conclusion that makes sense for everyone. Here is what I am doing with my bookings. The policies I created came after speaking with a large group of event professionals to figure out what others in the industry were doing.
“Due to COVID-19 I want to reschedule.”
The client that wants to reschedule while your state’s government restrictions are in place: I am going to allow them to reschedule. I have determined the timeframe for the reschedule to happen is one year from the original date of the event. What am I doing to keep some cash flow moving into my business for expenses in lieu of these rescheduled events? I am requiring that client’s pay 25% of their fee on their original payment due date and the other 75% of their fee is moved to a new due date based on their new event date.
More challenging is what to do for a client that wants to reschedule after your state’s restrictions are set to end. Whether you will allow these clients to reschedule is up to you. My clients in this category have two options. They can either reschedule prior to the beginning of the 2021 peak wedding season on any day or on any Friday/Sunday during peak wedding season but still within a year of their original date. These clients are then subject to the 25/75 breakdown mentioned above to keep the cashflow needed to pay my operating expenses. The next option is if they choose a peak wedding season Saturday that is also within a year of their original date, they incur a rescheduling fee. I have spoken with multiple clients about this and they have been very understanding. This fee potentially turns into a credit towards their original fee if the date ends up becoming unserviceable due to restrictions in my state.
“Due to COVID-19 I want to cancel.”
What do you do for the client that wants to cancel and their date falls during your state’s government restrictions? I am allowing them to cancel and providing the client a full refund, deposit included. I made the decision for my business based on my ability to sleep at night and will take a hit to my pocket. Everyone is going through the same thing and no one caused this issue. I completely understand some businesses will make a different decision. I would suggest that you have your contract reviewed by your attorney before making any decisions because your contract may make this decision for you.
If the couple wants to outright cancel and their event falls after the state restrictions have been lifted, I review with them what my regular cancellation policy states, inform them that without an extension of the state restrictions that the policy stands and they are held liable to the agreement from the originally signed contract.
You will have to determine the dates, timeframes, percentages and fees based on your state’s restrictions and the businesses expense projections.
Other factors to consider when making your COVID-19 policy is to consider the venues and vendors. See what they are doing and if you can align your policy with them. Especially with what the venues are doing. Attempt to minimize your business expenses so you can sustain your business longer. Reassess your pricing and readjust your deposit breakdowns. Have your attorney review and update your contract to make sure you are protected in the future.
The key is to remember that our clients don’t want to be stuck rescheduling or cancelling, just as much as we don’t want them to. Work with your client to make the best of this situation and to protect your business for the future!
Frank Smith is the founder of Prime Time Event Group serving the Central Virginia area since 2012. As a premier Event Host and DJ, Frank has been a part of over 350 events during the company’s 9 years in business. Find us online at PTEventGroup.com or on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @PTEventGroup.