entertainment.corporate.events.cancellation.policy.jpgEntertainment corporate events cancellation policy

It’s the nightmare scenario.

You book a vendor to produce a corporate event entertainment or team building activity, and they back out on you at the last minute. Now you’re left holding the bag, scrambling to find a replacement or, even worse, explaining to your attendees why there’s now a big, gaping hole in the agenda where something fun was supposed to be happening.

Let me start by saying that as a corporate entertainment supplier, this is my nightmare, too.

The last thing I’d ever want to see happen is to go through the entire sales process – exploratory call, drafting a proposal and contract, holding a customization meeting, arranging staffing, creating content, and everything else which goes into preparing for the event – only to have some disaster on my end prevent me from being able to deliver the gig. I shudder to think what the effect of such a catastrophe would be. Not only would cancelling a gig be a nightmare for me professionally, affecting my reputation and straining my relationship with the client, but I’d be personally devastated as well. Knowing me, I probably wouldn’t be able to sleep for a week.

Fortunately, I can say with pride that in almost ten years of producing team trivia games shows for corporate groups, I have never had to cancel an event.

NEVER.

Not once.

I count my lucky stars for this, but I have also taken great pains to ensure that this has never happened, and hopefully never will. I would literally move heaven and earth to avoid having to cancel a TrivWorks gig.

And yet…it could still happen.

That’s just the reality, and something which I as a responsible vendor must not only accept, but prepare both my clients and myself for. It would have to be something completely beyond my control, which no amount of planning or precaution could predict or mitigate. It would absolutely KILL me to do it, but I would cancel the gig if I had literally no other choice.

Ever since I started this business as a side gig back in 2009, I’ve had a service contract which I use to formalize the agreement with my clients. Right there in the contract, there’s an entire section called “Cancellation Policy,” which clearly covers what happens in the event that I need to cancel. Should the unthinkable happen and I simple cannot deliver the gig as contracted, the terms are all there in black and white. Again, knock on wood I’ve NEVER had to resort to this section of my service agreement – however, it’s there, it’s very fair, and it’s the right thing to do.

Just what WOULD cause me to have to cancel? Here are some of the awful scenarios which keep me awake at night, and which would necessitate a call from me to you, my client, which I’ve never had to make – and hope to never have to.

Emcee Illness or Emergency

I only work with seasoned professional corporate emcees for game shows, whom I trust unconditionally to not only represent TrivWorks and deliver a phenomenal experience, but to also act in a highly professional manner in every aspect of what they do. However, the unexpected can always happen, and at the most inopportune times. We’re all human, after all; we get sick, we have accidents, we have personal crises.

No matter how improbable, it’s always lurking there in the background; I might get a call from my emcee the week, day, or even hour of the gig, telling me that something horrible has happened, and they can’t perform. It could be my own personal disaster as well, for that matter. What if I were to come down with a horrible fever, get hit by a bus, or have a family emergency while on the way to emceeing a corporate trivia event?

I do have strong backup systems in place should something like this happen, including redundancy of event staffing (many of my producers double as emcees) and an entire roster of other emcees I can call upon in an emergency (here’s another article with relevant case studies). If the situation calls for it, I could also drop everything and get on a plane here in Los Angeles, and fly anywhere in the country to personally emcee an event myself. However, if a replacement simply isn’t feasible – most likely due to a last-minute contingency – I may simply have no other option but to cancel.

Even though emcee emergency is the leading candidate for why I’d have to cancel a gig, it remains a very, very unlikely scenario – as in, it’s never happened. If it does, I have a system in place to mitigate. But bad things DO happen, despite the best-laid plans.

Physical Inability for Emcee to Appear

It’s one thing if something happens to the emcee physically or personally which prevents him or her from performing; it’s another if outside forces make it impossible to even show up. What do I mean by this? When I close my eyes and envision this nightmare scenario, I’m thinking something along the lines of transportation disaster: cancelled flight with no chance of re-booking, a flat tire, being stuck underground on a New York City subway train that’s stalled, that sort of thing.

However, it could be something else entirely. I’m thinking here some extraordinary circumstance or set of circumstances which make it impossible for the emcee to even arrive at the space, let alone perform. Has this ever happened to me or any other of my emcees headed to a TrivWorks gig? Thank God, NEVER. But could it happen? Well, yes – of course it could.

As with the above section on emcee illness & emergency, I’ve got multiple precautions and backup systems in place here as well. For one thing, I make sure we build in plenty of time when traveling to events. If the gig calls for an emcee to fly in, I make sure we’re doing it conservatively, with at least a half a day between the scheduled landing and the gig itself. For longer flights – say, where the gig is in Colorado and the emcee is flying in from New York – we’ll most likely want to have him or her come in the night before (especially if weather might be a factor, such as snowstorms in winter or hurricanes in summer).

But again, there’s that “what if” factor…

What if there’s a major storm which wipes out all the flights for the day/night? What if there’s an overturned tractor trailer on the one road leading to the venue? What if my emcee walks through a puddle of super glue and can’t move? I exaggerate on this last one, but the point still remains: there may be unusual, unexpected and/or highly disruptive forces at play, which wreak havoc on the emcee’s ability to appear, thus forcing me to cancel.

It’s never happened, not once. But it could…

Force Majeure

I never went to law school, however I’ve known the term force majeure since I was at NYU for graduate school pursuing my master’s degree in music & entertainment business.

What exactly is force majeure? It’s a fancy way of saying “Act of God” – basically, something which is completely beyond ANYBODY’S control, either my client’s or my own, which makes it impossible, illegal or inadvisable to hold the event at all. The most likely example here is extreme weather, be it a flood, hurricane, blizzard or other natural disaster which makes holding the event unfeasible. However, it is also intended to include other unpredictable catastrophes such as fires, power outages, riots, strikes, terrorist attacks…you name it (want the actual definition? Here it is.)

What happens if we need to cancel the event due to no fault of mine or yours, but rather due to an “Act of God?” There’s a force majeure clause in my contract, which clearly lays out the terms. Once again, has this EVER happened with a TrivWorks event, even once?

No.

But could it?

Anything’s possible…let’s please keep our fingers crossed that our next ten years are as smooth as the last.

For another article on surviving event cancellations, visit www.trivworks.com/2011/05/event-planners-guide-to-surviving-cancellations/