The American Society of Association Executives (www.asaenet.org) held an audioconference on September 21 to address the cancellation issues arising from the tragedy. Along with legal and insurance advice, the audioconference included a walk-through of how one association came to the decision about whether or not to cancel a meeting scheduled for October.

1. Consider what type of message you want to convey with your decision. Do you want to proceed as normally as possible, as has been extolled by President Bush, or cancel in deference to this tragedy and the nation’s state of mind.

2. Examine the viability of a meeting that likely would have low attendance, and possibly sponsors, exhibitors, and speakers canceling.

3. Review hotel contracts for performance obligations and force majeure provisions.

4. Assess statements on cancellation policies from major hotel chains.

5. Review your event cancellation insurance policy to determine if the exclusion for war and terrorism would prevail, and what recourse would be available if the meeting were to be held with decreased attendance.

6. Contact major suppliers—AV, decoration companies, production companies, shuttle service, entertainment, and housing and registration if outsourced—to determine which, if any, obligations would be required if the event were cancelled.

7. Poll peers inside the industry and externally to see how they are addressing the issue.

8. Ascertain how your organization can attempt to recoup lost revenues through legal recourse and insurance.

Should you decide that, barring future events that could impact the viability of your conference, not to cancel, you may want to consider making modifications and adjustments to make up for the expected shortfall, including:

1. Renegotiate contracts to reduce or eliminate attrition penalties for sleeping room and catering shortfalls.

2. Ask the hotel to waive the reservation cutoff date to further entice attendees to come to the meeting.

3. E-mail attendees to let them know the organization’s decision.

4. Determine what your attendee registration and housing cancellation policy will be.

5. Provide an alternative mode of transportation for staff who fear to fly.

6. Reduce guarantees with hotels if possible.

7. Modify room sets for a reduced attendee base.

8. Enhance security.

9. Increase cyber café hours so attendees can travel without laptops and still keep in touch with the office.

10. Encourage casual attire to help attendees comply with airlines’ requests for limited carry-on luggage.

11. Develop an on-site management plan that includes dissemination of information during an emergency situation and emergency evacuation procedures.