“We need to talk.”

Starting a conversation with these four little words is sure to send most people into a panic. (Sorry for bringing up any bad memories!) But, unfortunately, conversations like these -whether in your personal or professional life- are unavoidable.

There are so many different things that can happen and could possibly impede a meeting or create problems for an event planner. Is there a best way to handle them? Here are three examples of potential difficult conversations that meeting planners may have to initiate.

Conversation 1: “You’re no longer invited.”

Reason: There could be a number of reasons you may need to tell an attendee, exhibitor, or other guest that they are no longer allowed to attend. Among them, violating a meeting’s code of conduct or not meeting a convention’s eligibility requirements. No matter the reason, rescinding an invite and explaining to a person why you have to cancel his registration is a discussion most people would not want to have.

Solution: Go personal over generic. The more thoughtful you are with how you approach the uninvited attendee, the better the reaction he/she may have. In this situation, it’s best to reach out via phone and explain the reason(s) for the person’s registration being cancelled, citing certain policies or eligibility requirements if need be. They will then have the opportunity to respond and give feedback. Even if they don’t agree with your decision, in the long run they may appreciate the personal outreach rather than a generic email telling him/her a refund is on the way.

Conversation 2: “Attendance isn’t as projected.”

Reason: After open registration let’s just say the numbers aren’t close to where the projections said they’d be. Yikes. Can lower numbers be attributed to a broader attendance trend like reduced travel budgets or attendees waiting until the 11th hour to register?

Solution: Get proactive. What other options do you have to promote attendance? Talk to other teams within your organization -like your marketing or social media teams- to see what other ideas may exist to draw more attention to the new event. When do you pull the plug? Consider at what point it may make the most sense to cancel the meeting outright and the impact doing so may have. Know the current financial picture and what the break-even point is in terms of revenue, because you will likely be asked both by your CEO’s office right away.

Conversation 3: “The meeting is cancelled.”

Reason: This would be the definition of an event planner’s worst-case scenario. Sometimes it happens, and often it’s for reasons beyond your control: thanks, Mother Nature! Everything from massive snowstorms to hurricanes to even company bankruptcy, it happens.

Solution: All hands on deck. Be upfront as possible. When it comes to letting your attendees and exhibitors know that a meeting is no longer taking place, the more communication the better. Be sure to communicate to them on multiple channels, this is definitely a time to tap into all social media platforms. Explain to registered attendees why you are cancelling, assure them that you understand that doing so may create problems for them, and let them know how and when they can expect refunds.

In addition, this is the key example of why an official crisis communication plan is necessary. Make sure your company has a standard crisis plan for planners to refer to and then as necessary, personalize the plans for each client event. Lastly, you should always carry event cancellation insurance. Don’t think so? Ask the planners of the 2012 New York City Marathon. Event cancellation insurance is designed specifically to protect event organizers, promoters and/or sponsors. It will protect your revenue and expenses.