Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Insight Into Conference Cancellations

First, thank you to everyone who participated in the blog hop on Friday, the 13th, and everyone who stopped by, and has so far purchased a copy of Bruised Souls & Other Torments! I just got my author copy today, so I was quite nervous, but everything looked great!

I know a lot of you are facing event cancellations, including writing conferences. I volunteer with Pikes Peak Writers, and we had to make the unfortunate choice to cancel this year's Pikes Peak Writers Conference. As one of the people who runs our monthly writing events, I'm also in the middle of scrambling to cancel and postpone events, and to figure out how to run them online for the next month. (If you have suggestions for how to run events where people can talk to each other online, I'd appreciate them! We're looking at Zoom and Facebook Live for different types of events.)

I thought some people might be curious as to why this string of cancellations may put various businesses and non-profits out of business and/or into bankruptcy. We were EXTREMELY lucky in that the event venue for our conference is willing to work with us. Had they shrugged and stuck to the contract, we would have had to claim bankruptcy, and our 501(c)(3) would have been no more. We would not have been able to recover.

Conferences put out a lot of money ahead of the event. Luckily, some of the costs are last minute, so that's money that doesn't go out until just before the event (some the week of) or after the event.

Advance Expenses (this isn't an exhaustive list--it's just to give an idea):
Airfare for faculty (this is a big one)
Registration/software/credit card fees (every transaction costs a certain amount in fees)
Percentage of the upcoming costs due to the hotel/venue in advance (massive chunk)
Bags/badge holders/printing/notebooks/pens/other giveaway shwag
Staff awards
Faculty shwag

Expenses Week of and Week After (again, not exhaustive):
Program printing/sign printing/other printing/printing supplies
Green room supplies
Faculty checks
Decorations for venue/ballroom
Final payment to hotel (includes hotel rooms for staff/faculty, food and beverage)(by far the largest chunk of money goes to this)
Books ordered for onsite bookstore
Consignment fees out to authors

I can't speak for other conferences, but for ours, money brought in for conference fees must cover the conference expenses, overhead for the annual costs of running a non-profit, expenses for monthly programming, etc. So having to refund conference fees to everyone means no money brought in to cover the annual expenses of the organization, on top of conference expenses already paid out and non-refundable. Plane tickets can be used within the next year, but unfortunately, the next conference is more than a year out, so we can't reuse those tickets. Anything paid out ahead of time is a loss.

I also work for a small business, a restaurant. At this time, our governor has shut down bars, restaurants, theaters, and similar businesses, except for takeout, drive-thru, or curbside. Each small business that cannot operate right now still has to pay their rent, utilities, etc. The big concern, of course, is the employees of these places. Most businesses appear to be adapting (as we have), and are providing takeout and curbside, which keeps their employees working and earning money. But bars can't do this, nor can many other types of businesses. If restaurants in your area are staying open, consider supporting local. Corporations have something to fall back on, and they will survive. Small businesses have nothing to keep them going.

We're living through interesting times right now. What it's shown is that humans (most, anyway) are quick to adapt and survive. I hope you're all doing well. If you've had an event canceled, please try to be kind to those responsible for running it. The decision to cancel an event is a hard one, and there are many factors people may not think about when it comes to following through. Bear in mind, also, that writers conferences and other types of conventions are often run by volunteers, so we're all doing this on top of day jobs and other life events, and we're doing so for free.

On a side note, if you have children home from school during this, you might want to ask them if they have friends who are in a bad situation at home and could use a break by coming to your house. Also, it helps if you can check if any of their friends need food or access (aka driving them) to places giving out lunches and breakfasts for those who are accustomed to getting them at school. Check with your elderly neighbors and immuno-compromised friends to see if you can do a grocery run or help with other errands. And if you have other ideas for how to help others, please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments.

Stay safe.

Has an event you were looking forward to been canceled? Has your town shut down yet? Do you know of an online format that might work to have meetings? Any ideas for how to help others during the quarantine?

May you find your Muse.

*Nosmoke Clip Art (dollar signs),, OCAL
*Hotel Icon Room Service Clip Art,, OCAL


  1. We haven't completely shut down but restaurants and such are takeout only.
    Glad you were able to recover most of the expenses. Most places seem willing to work with those who cancel. It will be tough for small businesses to survive. Hopefully the money from the relief fund gets out to those in need quickly.

    1. People seem to be innovative enough to lessen the economic hit, but it's still going to hurt for a lot of people. So many I know have been laid off, because their jobs aren't ones that can be modified.

  2. A Virginia conference last year was a reschedule from the year prior due to the hurricane. (And all of us speakers and presenters were able to come for the rescheduled one.) Another conference the first weekend of April has been moved to September. It's only their second or third year, so hopefully the expenses to do that didn't hit them hard.

    1. It's good to hear that it's been successfully done before. This is the first time PPW has cancelled a conference in 27 years!

  3. Hi Shannon - we've cancelled our various courses - which impact the churches and places where we hold them. I think the support here will manage - and yes we need to check others who are more in need. At the moment ... here government and authorities are working out exactly what is what. It is definitely desperate and anxious making.

    I wish everyone safe during this challenge - Hilary

  4. everything is cancelled or postponed - my fave writing event got moved to August. hopefully we can still do it!
    i hope this doesn’t last much longer, but we’re doing fine. wish i knew how to help those in need, i think my hub overbought...

    also wanted to say thanks for stopping by my Beast World campaign at Alex’s!

    Tara Tyler Talks

  5. I had a craft show next month cancelled, and I think the other one I have scheduled should be as well, but that's not up to me since I don't run it.

  6. My shop went to appointments only and just the boss and his wife are there. I've been laid off. :(

  7. bt, if you ant any more promo for your book my blog is open!