There is a saying in the military that goes “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy” The phrase has entered the civilian world’s lexicon to mean something a little more basic, but it’s still a helpful tool to keep yourself mentally prepared when planning projects or events.
The best way to think about it is to understand that no matter how well you think you have your events planned, once it starts, things can, and normally will, go wrong. The test of a great event planner is in how they handle the unexpected challenges that come with the territory.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the best ways to handle the challenges of event planning so the next time you’re in charge, you can feel more prepared!
How to Handle the Unexpected at Your Events
- Pre-event walk-though and event timeline A pre-event walk-through is critical for good event management. Set yourself up for success with a realistic event timeline that details what exactly is happening when. This can help you better understand the flow of your event and any areas that need attention now, versus what can wait.
When designing this timeline, remember to also be considerate of the likely time-spenders that will pop up. Event Check-ins with vendors and attendees, task delegation and other easily overlooked responsibilities should be factored into your event timeline.
- Come prepared at Events As many event planners can attest to, the best strategy is to always be prepared for the worst. Having a predetermined solution or pacifier for any potential hiccups can save you stress and ultimately, the success of your events.
A recommended best practice for this preparatory process is to assemble yourself a carry-all event kit. A few items to have handy in your kit include:
1. Sewing kit
2. Writing utensils: pens, pencils, markers, highlighters
3. Chargers: iPhone, Android and power strips
4. First aid kit
5. Wall-safe tape and glue
7. Cleaning supplies: cleansing wipes, lint roller
9. Breath fresheners
10. Address book: direct contact info of all event vendors and other relevant suppliers
11. Printed master sheet: event timeline, event WiFi passwords, presenter information, etc.
- Be professional When problems or unexpected changes do arise, it’s normal to feel a sense of initial panic or want to create a “reason” why things happened rather than owning up to mistakes. When this happens, pause, take a breath and remember chances are your guests haven’t even noticed.
Unfortunately, some incidents are entirely out of your control so the only thing you can control is your response. To best move on from an unexpected hiccup, maintain your professionalism and revert to honesty whenever possible.
This will demonstrate to guests that you have control of the situation here are a few recommended best practices.
- Keep calm: If you’re panicking, your staff or guests will panic and that is not the tone you want to set. Maintain your composure and take the task at hand in stride. A level head will likely help you solve the issue faster.
- Be honest: If a problem arises that directly affects guests, don’t try and lie your way out of it. Make the necessary announcement and reassure your guests you’re working to resolve the problem.
- Avoid blame: Event guests are not interested in the inner workings of your process or who’s responsible for what. Calling out the AV guy from a faulty mic won’t fix the problem any faster and will make your guests feel uncomfortable. Attend every problem with neutrality.
- Have a back-up: The best solution to the majority of issues that can potentially arise is a reliable plan B. Whether that be an on-call speaker, a back-up venue or a portable generator. You’ll never regret being prepared.
It’s impossible to anticipate the results of all the events you plan. Sometimes things will go wrong and sometimes they won’t. All you can do is prepare yourself and try and enjoy the process!
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