Anyone who has ever planned and staged a large scale event understands that Murphy’s Law is always in play. If something can go wrong, there is a very good chance it will. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a do-it yourself event planning pro, a large part of the job is preparing for, and guarding against, the inevitable moment when some aspect of your event starts to go south. It may be a last minute scheduling conflict, a major equipment failure, a procedural snafu, or an unsatisfactory vendor. But whether or not the problems are major or minor, it falls to the person in charge of the event to sort out the trouble, and get the day’s festivities back on track. So, to keep you from getting flustered or stressed out at your next event, we’ve prepared a few simple tips to help you take charge of any troublesome situation, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Keep Calm and Carry On
This is the most important tip to remember, and perhaps the most obvious. But it bares repeating. Cool heads prevail in any unexpected situation, and when something begins to go wrong at your event you need to keep your wits about you. Stay calm, and address the issue unemotionally. Your guests and clients are depending on you to handle all contingencies, and a brave face can do a lot to diffuse any troublesome situation. Moreover, if you present a cool and calm demeanor you have a good chance of dealing with the issue successfully without any of your attendees ever noticing that something has gone off script.
Before you can do anything to solve the problem, you must first get all of the facts. Again, a cool head prevails. Find out what the problem is, and why and how it has happened. As tempting as it may be, save the recriminations for later and consider how you can solve the problem at hand without disrupting the day’s event. Ideally, you have one or more assistants who you can turn to for timely status reports, and who you can rely on to implement your solutions to the problem. Those same assistants are also great sounding boards, so don’t be afraid to take them aside and brainstorm a quick solution to a problem as it arises.
As we’ve said, part of planning any event is preparing for, and guarding against, any conceivable contingencies. That means having a plan B in place if something does ultimately go wrong. Early in the planning stages of any large scale event, whether it’s a business seminar, a non profit fund raiser, or an elegant wedding, you need to take time to consider what might go wrong. Review a variety of different scenarios, and devise contingency plans to deal with any potential problem. For example, consider the following:
- Your Guest Speaker Fails to Attend – You should have a back-up speaker waiting in the wings to step in and save the day.
- Major Equipment Failure – You should have a back-up plan ready to deploy that does not rely on the any on-site tech or equipment to keep the day’s events moving and your guests occupied and/or entertained.
- A Vendor Cancels at the Last Minute – You should have a list of back-up vendors (caterers, entertainers, etc) on file that you can call on if a hired vendor fails to fulfill their contract.
- Unexpected Bad Weather – If you are planning an outdoor event, the weather can easily turn against you. You should have a contingency plan in place to move your event to a secondary indoor venue.
Troubleshooting any possible problems ahead of time, will help you to keep cool under pressure and will ensure that you have plans in place to deal with most of the common problems that can plague a large scale event. Take the time to think ahead, and consider what might go wrong and how you can deal with it effectively.
Honesty is the Best Policy
Finally, if something does go wrong during your event, don’t panic and don’t waste your energy trying to make elaborate excuses. Simply be honest with your guests, and explain the situation clearly and concisely. Your guests are attendees may be frustrated by the turn of events, but they will appreciate your honesty in dealing with the situation and will be ultimately much more forgiving of the circumstances. A little honesty goes a long way in helping you diffuse any problems that may arise, and will truly help you to snatch event victory from the jaws of defeat.