The Importance of Plan “B”

The Importance of Plan “B”

March 12, 2020 Off By La Donna Finnels-Neal

“The event is cancelled.”

One of the most dreaded terms in the entire event industry. Planners, organizers, sales and event managers, venue owners and the like hate to hear those dreaded words. Hours and hours of countless planning and money potentially down the drain.

The recent cancellations of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, South by Southwest (SXSW), NBA games, and countless other large and medium scale events have become a nightmare.

I’ve planned events for many many years. While working for a major oil company as a Technical Events Coordinator in 2009, I had the unfortunate opportunity to hear the dreaded news…

“All company events will be cancelled due to the H1N1 virus.”

“What??” That was the general question on everyone’s lips as the news spread. Travel arrangements were made, hotel reservations and event contracts were set in stone. Opportunities for valuable information to be shared was lost.

Or was it?

As the news was spreading about the potential implications of the virus, I was working with my team to create a Virtual Conference. A Plan “B”. Call it fate, intuition, or whatever it was, but we were prepared. We had a contingency plan. That year, our conference was the only conference to go on as planned…in a modified version. But it set the tone for all future conferences at the company.

So what are the opportunities?

As I watched the news and listened to merchants nearly in tears about all the revenue they would lose now that the events were cancelled due to COVID-19…some in the tens and hundreds of thousands, my heart sank. Countless members of the hospitality industry are terrified of how things will all affect them once the dust is settled. So what could have been done differently? What can be done now?

I want to go on record as stating nothing beats an in-person event. NOTHING. The amount of energy, the impromptu sharing of information, the invaluable connections, the ambiance and atmosphere of a beautiful venue. Live and in-person events provide those dynamics. But unfortunately, mother nature and other circumstances can create the need for “Plan B”.

Here are some options to consider.


  • Give ticket purchasers the ability to transfer their tickets to another event.
  • Allow ticket purchasers to receive a voucher for any future event.
  • Give ticket purchasers the option to use the same ticket for the same event if it is rescheduled.


If you are hosting a large-scale event, give your vendors and merchants the option to sell their products in a “virtual store”.

  • Allow vendors and merchants the ability to share information about their businesses. Contact information, products and services overview, etc.
  • Allow vendors and merchants to upload photos of their products and services and to sell them in a virtual store on the event site or to create their own customized virtual store on the site.


Don’t let participants miss out on valuable information that would have been shared at your event. Use the countless tools, videos, and content available to create a virtual conference.


Work with your performers to consider adding clauses to their contracts that will give them the ability to perform virtually if the event is cancelled for unforeseen reasons. With so much new technology, virtual concerts are being successfully executed on very large scales. Check out the article below to see an example.

Perhaps your future events are on a bit of a smaller scale. You want to schedule a 100 person company conference at your local hotel. Your team wants to meet at a nice restaurant to celebrate you co-worker’s 40th anniversary, etc. Here are some tools to ensure that your event will go on as planned in the case of some natural disaster beyond your control.


As stated in the larger events section above, don’t let your attendees miss out on receiving valuable information. Create contingency.

  • When securing your presenters for your conference or meetings, consider creating a clause in the contract that will give the presenter the option to participate virtually.
  • Reserve company conference rooms to use as a backup plan in case your meeting space is cancelled at your local event venue, hotel or restaurant.
  • Work with your IT and staff at your office to utilize video conferencing capabilities or use any number of external video conference service platforms that are available.


When establishing your contract with your event venue, hotel or restaurant, discuss options to consider if the event faces cancellation.

  • Establish more than one date! Work with the venue to establish your initial date, but always try to establish an alternative date in case the event is cancelled. This way you can communicate the alternate date to your attendees early, you are prepared, and the venue is prepared. This is the easiest way to try to ensure that revenue is not lost, and time is not wasted.
  • In the event you have to cancel your conference or meeting at the venue and have to execute a virtual event at your office, instead of completely cancelling any food and beverage options, consider asking to add verbiage in the contract that will allow the venue to cater your event at your office. This gives the option for higher quality food and service, and creates an opportunity for your virtual participants to gather at their respective locations to network while they eat.
  • Too many locations to bring your virtual attendees together? Consider giving the cancelled venue the option to give a short overview or short video advertisement during your event. Run the event venue’s ads during your virtual event. Work with the venue to create promotional codes to share with your attendees to encourage future patronage.
  • Always have a list of other event planners inside or outside your company that you can reach out to. See if they can use the space at the event venue that you have to cancel and connect them to your venue sales manager. Keeping great relationships is critical!

If you are a vendor, merchant, sales or event manager and your event was recently cancelled, nothing sucks more right now. There is a legitimate cause for concern and anger. Action is the best option.


Reach out to your partners in the events industry to see if there are options for bartering, selling on their websites, upcoming events where you can partner, etc.

If you have a lot of inventory and you really need to sell it, here are some options to sell online.

  • Ask if there is a contingency plan for the event where you will sell your products before signing the contract.
  • ALWAYS purchase event insurance.
  • Have a virtual store pre-established for your products and services.
  • Create your own contingency plan.


  • Look into placing your cancelled and unoccupied event spaces on apps such as GotSpot
  • When your customer is establishing event dates, suggest dates for contingency. Think of creative ways to provide value.
  • KEEP BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS! Stay in touch with your customers. At some point it will be back to business as usual and the customer will remember those that remembered them. Keep the lines of communication open.

Event cancellations affect so many industries – travel, hospitality, promotional products, catering, etc. These are just some suggestions to potentially ease the burden of future cancelled events.

Do you have any additional suggestions? Please include them in the comments.

La Donna Finnels-Neal is a Solutions Expert. She creates opportunities for career, personal and business development using innovative processes, connections, training and events through her company La Donna Finnels Enterprises. She has over 20 years experience in business and in the oil, gas and energy industries primarily in Fortune 10 corporations. Her motto is “Love your life…if you don’t love it…change it! Make it happy!”, and she strives to live it daily! 

Contact La Donna at