5 Tips to Plan for the Unexpected from an Event Coordinator

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“Planning an event is sort of like having a baby. You need a birth plan.” I sat down and spoke with Natalie Afshar, an Event Coordinator and official Outreach Manager for the University of California, Davis to ask her for some tips on how to get your team successfully through the last days and minutes leading to the event. When applied, these tips will have you feeling prepared and confident to host a successful event.

As the hero behind the curtain, not everyone sees the hard work you invest in order to put on a successful event even as last minute things come your way. We know things happen but are confident that you can master your way through emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. Here are 5 tips to help you be proactive as the clock winds down to your event.

1.  Have an event timeline or run sheet

“You have your strategies of how you want to raise your child but as many parents know, the road isn’t always a predictable path.”- Natalie Afshar, bringing back the child analogy.

Natalie also shared,“Having an event timeline will help you map out the important tasks along the way. A timeline will help you see what needs to be done now and what can be done at a later time. This will help you with managing your time and will reduce stress and last minute things.”

When creating your event timeline/run sheet, schedule in check-in points along the way. If you are dealing with staff, vendors, or multiple people involved that you have delegated items to, you may need to track the progress of their tasks. Be sure to create realistic and clear expectations when delegating to volunteers or staff.

2.  Walk through the event space and day-of logistics

If you have the luxury of doing a walk-through of your event at the venue along with your team of volunteers or staff, then be sure to take advantage of it. If you don’t, you can still have a team huddle or an informational session and run-through in a different location.

“If you are working with a team, it’s important to get people excited and onboard to help contribute to the communication and smooth flow of your event timeline,” said Natalie. When people can work and communicate well together, it will help dissolve any potential problems with that great teamwork.

Go over where people should be, when things should happen, as well as how to answer and confront potential questions or emergencies. For example, if you have a check-in process, set your check-in team up, having other people on your team act as attendees, and do an actual, physical run-through for practice.

3.  Be Prepared

Some of us may be familiar with fire or earthquake drills from our grade school years. One can only hope that emergencies won’t occur, but the reality is, they happen. Preparing for the unknown in event coordinating may sound like an oxymoron but you will nonetheless be wiser for doing so anyway. Hiccups may or may not happen but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

Natalie gave me a list of things that she includes in her event emergency kit:

  • Duct Tape, scotch tape, or tape that does not take paint off, along with glue and other adhesive items
  • Tacks, push pins, staples
  • Sewing Kit (emergencies with speakers and main guests)
  • Scissors
  • Writing tools (pens, sharpies, pencils, markers, etc.)
  • Extra chargers, USB cables, HDMI cables, and power strips
  • Cleansing wipes and sanitary cleaners
  • Trash bags, paper towels, wipes, and other small cleaning supplies.
  • First aid kit
  • Aspirin/Tylenol, antacids, Benadryl
  • Bottled water and snacks
  • Flashlight
  • Material for last-minute signage
  • Contact list for all of the event vendors
  • A printed version of computer slides, speeches, etc.

Not every event is the same but every event can benefit from one or more of these items. Consider writing down what might work for you!

4. Check in with vendors, speakers, and special guests

“You can’t assume that people have read your important updates and emails. I’ve had a vendor show up at an old location even though we sent multiple messages about the new location.” – Natalie

A good indicator that you might need to follow up or check in with someone is if you’ve received zero correspondence from those important emails. Things to consider when sending follow up messages, phone calls, or other communications are:

  • Where to park or unload equipment
  • Who to check in with, location of green room or meeting place
  • Schedule of their involvement and overall event timeline
  • Making sure you’ve taken care of all the payments

5. Take care of yourself

Lastly, Take time to collect yourself and preserve your energy for the important things. This will help any event planner or coordinator be responsive, and not reactive, leading up to the event and on the big day itself. Being behind the scenes can sometimes be a thankless role but we acknowledge that without you, so many valuable experiences and moments would not happen. Treat yourself and make sure to celebrate every success and win along the way!

Being strategic in your preparations will help build your confidence as you enter into the last weeks and days leading up to your event. You’ll be prepared to face whatever may come your way! What are some of your favorite ways to prepare for the execution of your event?