We’ve Cancelled Unbounce Live. How We Got Here and How We’re Moving Forward.
The last couple of days have been really challenging for the events team at Unbounce. We made the hard decision to cancel Unbounce Live, a workshop series we developed that was supposed to take place in Boston on November 7th.
We’d like to share the details of how we got here, why we made the very tough call to cancel and the way we have chosen to handle this situation to move forward.
Especially at this time, we want to try to live our value of transparency and share everything about the mistakes we’ve made, what we’ve decided upon as a result and where we go from here.
As a company, we talk about failure and not being afraid of failure. In the recent Vancouver Sun article that featured Unbounce we said, “At Unbounce employees are encouraged to work together, take time to think creatively and to make mistakes along the way.” We made a mistake. But we’ll learn from this and come back better than ever the next time.
The Mistakes We Made and What We Learned
The backbone of any in-person event is people and valuable content. You can take out all the bells and whistles, but you can’t move forward if there’s no audience and if you don’t have valuable content.
When it came down to it, we weren’t close enough to making Unbounce Live successful on both those fronts.
Events are tricky. There are a lot of up-front costs and we aim to more or less break even on our bigger events. You sell tickets, but the event purchasing cycle can be very stressful as a bulk of the tickets are often purchased in the last month to two weeks. On top of that, first-time events are especially tough. Events don’t sell themselves. And once you declare a date, that’s it. It’s not something you can push back.
Valuable content also takes a lot time and effort. This time around, we went with a different format—hands-on workshops. We didn’t plan enough time ahead to make them valuable for attendees or to integrate planning working across departments. Surprise, this stuff doesn’t happen on its own.
When it comes down to it, there are a lot of details, planning and backup planning to go over again and again when it comes to events. We weren’t as prepared as we should have been to make the event successful for Unbounce, but more importantly, valuable for our customers, potential customers and attendees.
Which is what lead us to the tough decision to ultimately cancel Unbounce Live.
People bought tickets and made arrangements to come. We needed to break the news to those who bought tickets.
It was a gut-wrenching feeling. We were letting them down. When they purchased that ticket we gave them a promise that we were now breaking.
We started by setting out a goal: Create a unique, delightful experience for purchasers, customers and potential customers even though we messed up.
Then we worked on a plan that would help us achieve that goal.
In short, our plan was to:
- Own up to our mistake.
- Do so sincerely and authentically.
- Make our apology personal (Writing a ‘template’ email and slapping <FIRST NAME> on it isn’t good enough.)
- Live up to our core values: Transparency, Courage, Delight, Humility, Generosity, Empowerment.
- Go above and beyond just a ticket refund. Even if it costs us a little more money.
- Apologize again.
The responses we’ve received to date are very positive. One gentlemen in particular said it was the best apology/cancellation email he’s ever received.
Why We Default To Our Core Values, Especially in Difficult Situations
It’s easy to default to our core values when things are going well. It’s much harder to do so when they are not.
It’s harder to be transparent when all you want to do is sweep your big mistake under a rug. It’s easy to say, “Why would we give people something beyond just their money back? We’ve already spent so much time and money on this project.” It’s harder to be generous in a stressful situation. To spend a bit more money, time and resources on something thoughtful. It is humbling to stand up in front of the company to admit that you screwed up. In our case, cancel something we’ve put a lot of time and effort into.
Google defines core values as a set of “guiding principles that dictate behavior and action.” Our core values help us to know what is right from wrong and help us determine if we are on the right path.
It’s important to default to our core values, especially and most importantly when a situation is difficult.
-Joel, Dustin and Stef