Natural disasters happen everywhere, regardless of whether we like it or not. It is out of our control. Natural disasters are for example flood like what happened in Penang, Malaysia a few days ago; hurricane with the recent Hurricane Irma that hit America in August/September this year; tsunami and typhoon to name a few. With natural disasters, sometimes events are affected and need to be postponed or cancelled.
It is important to have a contingency plan for events and to cover cases like these, where unexpected catastrophy happens to affect the event. According to the Cambridge Business English dictionary, contingency plan means “a plan that is made for dealing with an emergency, or with something that might possibly happen and cause problems in the future“.
In your agreement for your events, be it agreements you signed with your customers or it could be agreements with your vendors or venue, it would be good to insert a force majeure clause. Force majeure is a French terms which means “superior strength” and it is a legal term which means “unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Your force majeure term could highlight what steps are to be taken by all parties in case there are unforeseeable circumstances that cause or affect the event to not be carried out properly or at all.
Natural disaster is something that no one wants to happen and of course with the cancellation of events, a lot of parties will be affected – from the event organiser to the guests, to the venue and the vendors. It is important for everyone to be understanding in cases like these and not simply find faults or point fingers at each other. It is not like someone did not carry out their job responsibility when the condition is perfectly fine, then it will be a different case.\
For events that are affected because of natural disaster, it is best for the event organiser to decide what to do with the event, or to involve the events team together if he/she wants and then have a discussion with other parties involved to see what is the best solution they can come up with in terms of the event and handling of payments owed. There will be outstanding payment to be made to venues or vendors due to some contracts signed before the event, which might state that you need to pay them the full amount by the event day. You might find it unfair that you did not get any service or item because the event is cancelled but yet you have to pay. Business is such that there needs to be terms and conditions to fulfill but there is always a human being running the business and the human touch would be good here, where parties can discuss and negotiate something so that everyone can benefit in a way or another, especially in this case of natural disaster, where nobody would have wanted the disaster to happen in the first place. If a party makes a big fuss and insists that you pay in full without hearing any reasons, well, you sure know that you would not want to deal with this party anymore in the future and would not want to take hire this party, if this party it is a venue or vendor. Note that this is applicable for natural disaster and not because of any other reasons.
From a business point of view, why there would need to be charges even if the event was cancelled : for example if it is a catering company, the caterer might have already bought the raw ingredients and cooked the meal for the event, so they have already spent money for this event and that is why they need to get their payment owed. From a customer’s point of view, why it would be unfair to be charged if the event is cancelled : the customer did not get to attend the event, so they do not think it is fair. Most of the time, the customers are refunded if they have paid for a ticket or if it is a lump sum that the customer paid then there can be negotiations made where the event organiser takes an amount to pay up what is necessary like vendors, then give the customer a certain discount or to hold the full payment made by the customer, so that the customer can use that unused amount minus whatever payment made by the event organiser for their next event.
If the customer is the event organiser who needs to pay the venue or vendor, then the event organiser in cases like this can negotiate with them to see if the venue or vendor can offer a discounted rate or use the items or services for the next event that the event organiser is going to hire them for. There are some good companies that are willing to come up and carry out solutions that can benefit everyone because after all, it is good to keep the business relationships for a long time with customers and other businesses that you know and are comfortable to work with. There are many ways to approach the solution and we cannot stress enough that it is important to think of a solution where everyone can benefit from it.
If you decide to cancel the event, make sure that you inform the guests that are confirmed coming and to announce that the event is cancelled online if needed. If the event can be postponed, then ensure that you decide on a new date then inform your guests. If the date is not confimed, then let you guests know soonest possible that the event is postponed so that they do not make their way to the venue and inform them later on the new date for the event. There are some events that are time-sensitive, and if you still need to hold an event as such, then you would need to find another venue to hold it. To decide on a new venue, you would need to consider where the natural disaster did not affect any areas nearby and whether it would be accessible. If the event can be shown live online and guests view it online without needing to go to the venue, then that can be another solution to the problem.
As for the case of food that has been prepared for the event which guests will not be attending or a lesser amount of guests will be attending, then the caterer, venue or event organiser can decide whether the food can be frozen and used at a later date, provided it is still within the food safety and hygiene regulations or perhaps they can donate the food to those in need, such as those affected by the natural disaster. We have seen many kind souls who donate food to the needy during natural disasters. Some caterers or food companies do not even charge anything for the food. At the end of the day, it is how you come up with a solution that can benefit everyone during this natural disaster and carry out the solution with as little problem as possible as no one wants problems or natural disasters to happen.