Anyone who has ever planned a large scale event will tell you that Edward Murphy probably hosted a few events for his engineer buddies in his day. Murphy’s Law, hence, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” is no truer in any industry than event management. From conception to execution, you must be ready to roll with the punches, because trust me, there will be several knockouts along the way.
A large part of events is preparing for and guarding against, the inevitable moment when things begin to go south. From a small schedule faux pas to a major equipment failure, it is a skill to “keep calm and carry on” when it is perfectly acceptable to panic, just as everyone else is. Here is how to handle the most common event disasters.
Speaker Can’t Speak. Whether the best man has had a bit too much to drink, an aunt could not come last minute to light the twelfth candle at a sweet sixteen, or the guest speaker just fails to show, it is crucial to have a back up speaker waiting in the wings ready to fly. Encourage any speaker or receiver of any award to write what they plan on saying down. That way, if something suddenly comes up, the stand in won’t be blabbering endlessly.
A Vendor Cancels At The Last Minute. Contracts can be signed weeks prior, and suddenly a caterer, entertainer, or musician can no longer make it. Always have a back up list of fellow performers, etc. that is brought to the venue and are “on call.” Call three backups a few days before the big event to make sure that at least one is available in case of 911. Always stay organized and keep all documents on file so that if a contract is breached, there is documentation and money can be refunded.
Bad Weather. Weather is unpredictable but should always be accounted for. Day-of preparations should always ave alternative options in case of inclement weather. If the event focus is based outdoors, pre order tents that cover the entire area. It is always best to over prepared with the option of returning unused equipment than vice versa.
Equipment Failure. There should always be a secondary option that relies on no on-site tech equipment. Technical difficulties can often be fixed with a little re wiring but while the issue is being sorted out, make sure there is an alternative to keep guests entertained. Bring extension cords and a cd player, as outdated as it sounds, in case an IPOD can’t be played or dies.
No One Shows. You expected two hundred guests and only half show. Especially for business events and fundraises, actual head counts can differ from the imagined count, regardless of the number of RSVPS. When the day finally comes around, people don’t feel like showing up or simply forget. Don’t get frantic. Guests seeing you panic, make them feel like they need to worry, too. Act like just as many guests as expected are there. Force current guests to stay by getting the party started immediately, keeping all activities on schedule. Don’t wait for “more people to show” to start passing appetizers and playing music. Treat the guests that did attend like superstars. Text, send emails and ask for favors of friends to come to an event where the attendance is looking slim. It is better to fill the room as much as possible, even if the people who are there are fellow employees, actual guests don’t know the difference.
When you begin planning, go through several scenarios and create a plan B for each. Part of planning is planning for any contingencies, which means having a plan B in place if something ultimately goes wrong. It is essential to keep cool, calm, and collected and keep panic for the client under control. If you seem calm, it will force them to calm down. If something goes wrong that cannot be fixed, honesty is truly the best policy. The guests and attendees may be frustrated but will be more willing to forgive the mistake and will appreciate your honesty. Strive to diffuse any problems swiftly and honestly.