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What to Do If a Speaker Cancels at the Last Minute

By: Anthony Stringer BA (hons) - Updated: 14 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
What To Do If A Speaker Cancels At The Last Minute

Organising a conference can be a smooth and time efficient process, however, when it comes down to the actual event your plan is never safe and all sorts of problems and inconveniences can arise.

Many of these inappropriate situations occur just when you’re not expecting them and usually happen at the last minute or at the most awkward time. This is why it is essential to prepare and arrange essential backup plans and support arrangements to avoid disasters and major catastrophes.

One of the most difficult situations to amend during a conference is when one of your main conferences speakers cancels. This predicament can often cause a complete rearrangement of the conference or even to cancel the whole event.

However, although the cancellation of a speaker is detrimental to the conference, there are ways of fixing the problem – as long as you don’t panic and get moving.

Backup Speakers

The most obvious and fool proof way of combating a cancellation from one of your speakers is to have organised a backup speaker prior to the event. Popular speakers are well sort after and many have extremely busy schedules, so in the rare occurrence of a speaker double booking an event or falling ill in the run up to the conference, it is always a good idea to have someone who is guaranteed to be available just in case your first option cancels.

This could be another speaker, an employee or whoever has a speech ready and a talent for public speaking.

Using the Speech

A good way of getting over the cancellation of a speaker is to ask them to post, email or fax you over their speech. This enables you to offer your delegates the information and subject matter without having to change the criteria of the conference. If the speaker you have hired is a popular figure and is one of the reasons your delegates are attending your conference you may receive a bad review.

However, if you explain that although the specified speaker has cancelled at the last minute they have passed on the appropriate information/speech. This should entice them as your delegates are essentially there for the subject matter rather than the person.

Step by Step of What to do

1/ The first thing to do when you have received notification of a speaker cancelling is to decide on a replacement or backup strategy. Whether this be another speaker or simply cancelling the whole event, you must have a plan to explain to delegates.

2/ As soon as the plan has been decided get the message out to attending delegates explaining who has cancelled, why and what is being done to rectify this. Explain in great detail who will be taking their place so that no one has any misunderstandings that turn into unhappy delegates.

3/ Apologise sincerely before, during and after the event. Letting the delegates know that it was out-of-your hands and that you are extremely sorry for the situation will show the attendees that you have tried your best to rectify the problem and will therefore gain their approval and understanding.

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