In the event hosting industry, rarely anything goes according to plan. Whether it’s CrossFit and their thousandth event or a local high school reunion’s first event, you’ll quickly learn to expect the unexpected. It’s easy to get caught up in the idealism of the event, thinking it will pan out exactly as desired.
However once you accept that rarely anything goes according to plan, you can begin to step back and install backup plans to save moments of frantic desperation. Approaching your event with a preemptive strategy will help you plan for the unknown, alleviate stress, and keep the event running smoothly.
In my years assisting our clients’ events, I have noticed common scenarios that tend to never go according to plan. I’d love to share these most common scenarios to help you begin thinking through the various aspects of your event to begin to vet for the unexpected.
1. Key people not showing up
What can you do when a speaker can’t present last minute? Always have a back up. People can easily get sick, flights can be canceled, and unexpected drama could cause your key people not to come to the event. In plays and movies, actors always have an understudy for cases in which the primary actor goes down, the understudy can stand in. The same concept should apply to your vital people in your event.
2. Internet going down
With large events, people usually will have their phones with them. Phones take up cellular data, and with such a load on nearby cell towers, internet speed begins to slow down, if not become non-existent. Consider the possibility that you may lose internet at your event. Have extra internet hotspots on hand to use specifically for necessary devices for your event’s success. lso have a hard copy list of your registrant data in case the beautiful asset of internet disappears. The worst thing that could happen at your event is internet going down then having no way to access the registrant list or agenda. Having hard copies of both, at all necessary stations will only insure that the show will still go on!
3. People running late
Across all events I have helped, I have always come across the volunteer or the speaker who shows up late. In these cases, you want to make sure your bases are covered. Prioritize your volunteer stations from highest priority to lowest priority, so that you can funnel the first arriving volunteers to the high priority stations in case other volunteers arrive late. When a speaker is late, you need to worry about the audience becoming impatient. Having advertisements or videos play in case of delay will keep the audience occupied.
4. Equipment not working
It is almost a scientific law that some of your tools won’t work the day of the event. They were all working when you tested the night before! But now, for some comical reason, the device decides to stop working. Having extra devices is the insurance that you need in the case when something does go wrong. When I assisted our client, Vevo, with one of their events, they had 4 extra scanning devices. Each ready to go when a device needed to be charged or randomly combusted. Having extra tools such as check in devices, projectors, power cables, radios, will save you in the end.
5. Uninvited people showing up
Nine times out of ten you will have attendees who show up who are not on the list., have a plan for these people. Do you want them to register onsite? Do you have security available to handle the fraudulent orders? In working music events, I’ve seen organizations have a ‘fraud ticket plan’. By creating a plan to funnel any unregistered or questionable people to a separate table, you will keep check-in smooth and pleasant for the experience of your other registered guests.
6. Lack of sleep
The one scenario that absolutely has never changed across all types of events is the lack of sleep for the production staff. Event planning is one of the most consuming jobs out there. With so many variables on the day of the event, the likelihood is high you will not have had much sleep the week of the event. Stay fed, caffeinated, hydrated and schedule a few quick breaks so the monster in you doesn’t come out. Also, by planning for the unexpected in advance, you can rest knowing things will always work together even if it isn’t according to plan.
Murphy’s law states “Anything that could go wrong will go wrong”. It’s comical when you actually plan for the unexpected to happen, usually the unexpected doesn’t end up happening. However, by strategizing back up plans, you’re only setting yourself up for success no matter what. Though you may not be able to plan for every unexpected situation that arises, you’ll begin to naturally think preemptively for most cases and, for the most part, not feel like you have to curl back up into bed.