This week has been tough. Yesterday, my fiancé and I found out that a month from now, we aren’t going to have our wedding. There were lots of tears. But at the end of the day, the most important thing is our health, family and each other. The rest is just window dressing.
It’s hard to imagine missing out on these monumental moments that shape our lives in so many ways. But, believe it or not, my 20-year-old brother said it perfectly: “I’m sad, which I don’t think is wrong. It’s circumstances out of everyone’s control.” And he couldn’t be more right. No one plans to have graduation canceled, weddings postponed, conferences online or milestones missed because of a worldwide pandemic. That’s a scenario you only hear about in Hollywood. These are scary, anxious and stressful times for everyone – but how we deal with these emotions can either help or hinder us in our next steps.
Allow yourself time to mourn the things you can’t do.
If we cancel some events now, it means we have a better chance of maximizing the rest of 2020. Deep down, we all know these cancellations are the best thing to do right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t allow ourselves time to be sad about it. So give yourself a minute (or ten) to grieve. Then remember, this is not forever and we are going to get through it.
- Your feelings matter. It’s important to understand that you are allowed to be upset. Your life has been flipped all around, you should be a little sad! Are there bigger problems in the world right now? Sure. But how you feel matters, too.
- Talk to someone who makes you feel better. Use your support system during this time. And coworkers absolutely count! Call a loved one or FaceTime with friends who make you laugh. The more you talk about how you’re feeling, the sooner it becomes a reality and the quicker you will feel better.
Be flexible and have an open mind.
Global pandemics are completely out of anyone’s control. These are the times we need to practice our patience…me included. It might not be your original plan, but when life gives you lemons, we all know the best thing to do is make lemonade, starting with these tips:
- Let your vendors know ASAP. Once you decide to postpone or cancel your event, the first people you need to inform are the ones responsible for making it happen. Take the time to talk take with your vendors to develop a plan to reschedule, as opposed to canceling. Be open with them. Search for opportunities to learn how you both can feel better about this shift in your plan. You’ve bought yourself some time, and that means you have options and can build a strategic vision for your postponed event. Keep in mind these businesses are also dealing with a ton of other people in your same situation, so be patient and be kind.
- Understand your contracts. Read your contracts thoroughly. Most contracts will include a postponement or cancellation section that should contain a section called “Acts of God,” which are unforeseen events out of anyone’s control (ex. hurricane, fire, tornado, worldwide pandemic, etc.). It’s important to make sure these kinds of instances are covered for you and your vendor so there are no surprises later on. Do not assume these vendors will alert you to the cancellation policies. Be proactive, be polite, and be open to hearing about new options.
- Create a communication plan to inform your attendees. The sooner you let your attendees know, the better. That way everyone has enough time to reschedule or get reimbursed for travel plans. The best way to do this is to divide the attendee list and create an updated communication plan to answer questions about the event postponement, practical updates and ways to get in touch if your attendees have further questions.
Focus on your positives.
Not THE positives, YOUR positives. Your health, your family, your friends, your organization! Focus on whatever makes you happy and stick with it.
- Celebrate why you were hosting the event in the first place. I’m still getting married. Your community can still celebrate local achievements. Seniors still get to graduate with a degree. Organizations can still champion their members and missions. All of these events, even my wedding, are just a venue for these milestones. And even though it might look a little different than what you envisioned, don’t let it rob you of what you were doing it in the first place.
- Move through the stress and maximize the time you now have. As soon as you process the initial grief and start making your new plans, that stress you’ve been feeling will begin to melt away. You might still be a little sad now, but by the time your postponed event rolls around, all of these upsetting emotions will be long gone. Give your attendees (and yourself!) something special to look forward to.