Event professionals dread the word cancellation. But when circumstances leave no other option, follow these best practices to ensure a smooth refund process for your exhibitors and sponsors.

1. Clearly Define Your Refund Policy
First, determine if your organization will offer refunds to exhibiting and sponsoring companies. If so, will all funds be returned?

While exhibits are only in place during the conference, many sponsored items such as eblasts and attendee lists are sent before the conference and still offer sponsors tangible benefits if the event is canceled. Decide if payment for these items will also be refunded. Another option is offering exhibitors and sponsors credit for future meetings, or suggesting other potential sponsorships for the current year that may be fulfilled virtually.

Determine if your vendors will offer refunds. The Official Services Contractor (Decorator), AV provider, and other vendors often collect payment from exhibiting and sponsoring companies when orders are placed, and you should ask for their cancellation policies.

Finally, determine if your sales team will lose commission for items already sold.

2. Outline the Process Through Which Refunds Are Issued
If options include either a refund or a credit for future exhibits or sponsorships, determine who decides which option is given. Some associations will allow companies to select the option that best suits their needs, while others prefer to specify how refunds will be issued.

If companies are allowed to self-select how their refund is issued, clearly state the deadline by which their choice must be made. After that deadline apply their funds to a credit for future exhibits or sponsorships.

Develop a step-by-step procedure for refunding and crediting companies. Questions to consider include:


  • Who will process the refund?

  • How will the refund be processed?

-Will credit card payments be refunded by credit card?

-Will companies receive a credit card receipt for their refunds?

-Will checks be issued?

-If a credit card refund cannot be processed, will a check be issued?

-How will ACH payments be refunded?

  • Will there be merchant processor fees associated with the refunds?

  • When will refunds be issued?

  • Who will communicate the process to the exhibitors and sponsors?


  • Will credits be applied to a future meeting?

  • If so, how far in the future may the credit be used?

  • Will credits be for specific items (a 10×10 exhibit booth, an eblast), or for a dollar amount?

3. Create a List of Companies That Will Receive Refunds or Credits
Create a list of companies to be refunded. This list should include:

  • Company Name

  • Items Purchased

  • Total Purchase Price

  • Refund Payment Type

Create a list of companies to be credited. This list should include

  • Company Name

  • Items Purchased

  • Total Purchase Price

4. Determine Reconciliation
Reconciliation may be the most important part of the refund/credit process. It is vital that communication regarding refund processing be frequent and detailed. Three vital decisions include:

  1. How will refunds be tracked internally?
  2. Who will process the refunds for credit cards? For checks?
  3. How will you ensure refunds aren’t accidentally applied for those that chose the future credit option?

Reconcile each week!!