Last month we received an urgent phone call from a company who was in the middle of a conference. The business who was booked to host their afternoon team building activity had just notified them that they had gotten the date wrong and was unable to deliver. The event manager was stressed to the least, it was approaching midday and they had less then 3 hours to organise an alternate activity. All of this was occurring whilst she had to keep the current event on track so had no option to plan and prepare her own solution.

When you are running an event, something will always go wrong. Hopefully it will rarely be of that scale but it’s helpful to both prepare for and expect the worst. Here are our tips to getting things back on track when you’re confronted with the unexpected.

  • Stay Calm: How well you recover from a setback is going to be in direct relation to your ability to focus and problem solve. Whilst it may feel like your hardwork has been jeopardised and you’re going to be left standing on stage in your underwear (a frequent nightmare of actors like us!) attendees are more forgiving than you realise. Keeping the problem in perspective not only helps you come up with solutions but it also ensures that your team feel confident that things will work out for the best.
  • Ask for extra time if you need it– perhaps you can change your catering timetable or offer people 30mins to speed network. Put on some music or a slideshow, make sure the guests have beverages and you can be sure they will relish the opportunity to interact with each other. After all, your attendees have the rare opportunity to meet each other and may like to make desired connections outside of structured events.
  • Even if you are prepared things can go wrong with any element of the event. There aren’t enough meals for non-reported dietary requirements, the AV system blows or the MC has come down with the flu. In your preparations it is helpful to imagine your Plan B in any of these scenarios. Just as you might visualise and practise answering difficult questions for a job interview, this preparation makes sure you have ready solutions on hand when the pressure is on. For example you may know that your contingency budget is $XXX and that you can order more catering from an outside provider to meet the requirements. You may also know that Sarah in HR is an excellent public speaker and you have a printed copy of the Event Run Sheet to give her, so she can fill in for the MC. As they say ‘Confidence is Preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.
  • Call in favours (or professional help). Have a list on standby of people or suppliers who can help you. If you cannot get out of your current duties to fix the problem, you can delegate to other employees or even call in freelancers on websites like Airtasker or Freelancer. You can access talent at the last minute for almost anything. If you need to replace suppliers you can contact businesses you previously asked to quote on the event and see if they are available. This may also be a good time to ask the Venue Manager if they have a preferred supplier list and local contacts who can help you.

In this instance, the event had a happy ending. We were able to prepare a race for 150 people and tailor it to the company’s conference location within 3 hours of her phone call. We had an awesome time knowing that we had provided some great customer service by facilitating this quick turn around and the participants loved our activities. All in all it was a glaring success thanks to the quick thinking and preparation of the Event Manager. We love a challenge and if you are in the middle of a event planning pickle- we have the skills and experience to help you.

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