How to prepare for the unexpected (and keep your cool on event day).

Event organizers are master problem solvers. When something isn’t working out, they know just what to do to get the event back on track (with poise and aplomb we might add). 

So how do organizers stay ready for these inevitable hiccups during an event? Also, how do they stay so relaxed when the pressure is on them to fix the problem? Answer – it all comes down to preparation, lots of it. So to help you stay ready, here’s how to prepare for the unexpected (and keep your cool on event day). 

Organizers preparing by making a plan.

Develop contingency plans.

Developing personalized contingency plans is the first step to being ready for anything. 

Things can and will go wrong at an event. There might be food and beverage issues, speaker cancellations, or even natural disasters or emergencies, but if you develop a plan, you’ll be able to guarantee the best possible outcome in any situation.

Here are three steps to developing a contingency plan: 

Identify what can go wrong:

Your event is unique. It is one of a kind! This is what makes events so awesome, but it also means that a unique set of problems can arise at your event. 

If you have a complex speaking schedule, this might be an area where problems can arise. If attendees are depending on you for three days of food and entertainment, chances are there might be a hiccup during one of the meals. 

Dig deep and list out where things can go wrong at your event, specifically. 

Develop solutions:

Turn all those potential problems into actionable solutions. 

If your catering falls through, make sure you have the numbers for three awesome food trucks in the area. If your keynote can’t make it, have a slightly less well-known, but slam dunk replacement waiting in the wings. 

You’ll also find that by completing this exercise, new creative solutions and event ideas will bubble to the surface. A win-win if you ask us! 

Know how you will react:

One of the best ways to keep your cool is to know exactly how you want to react when things don’t go as planned. 

Start by listing out the response you want to have. For example, you’ll want to be professional and take responsibility. No cracking jokes or downplaying. All energy will focus on rallying the attendees with a positive outlook and putting your solutions to work. 

This is obviously easier said than done, but a little preparation goes a long way here.  

A man saying what he needs.

Talk to speakers and vendors about what they need.

Speakers and vendors are one of the main reasons attendees are at events in the first place. This is why it’s so important that these individuals have the things they need to contribute to the event to the fullest. 

Here are some areas to check: 

Technology:

Find out what your speakers’ technology needs are. This includes laptop connections, cables, dongles, as well as making sure they understand the event’s technology platform (especially if they are doing a virtual presentation). 

Personal needs:

Most professional speakers will have any personal needs itemized in their rider, but it’s always a good idea to double-check that you have everything on the list. 


Marketing or promotional info:

Many speakers and vendors are more than willing to help promote the event, but it’s important that they have the necessary links and flyers to make this happen. You don’t want to miss out on your keynote speaker’s 1 million followers hearing about the event!

Event organizer with measuring tape.

Do a walkthrough.

The best way to make sure everything goes as planned at the venue is to take an in-person walkthrough. 

Here’s what we recommend doing while you are there:

Take measurements:

Measure any part of the venue where you need to bring equipment or where vendors will be using the space. Make sure the measurements line up with the estimates you have listed publicly on the event website. 

Test the technology and equipment:

If you’ll be using any of the technology or equipment at the venue, ask to test it out. It’s better to identify any issues now well before you set up on event day.  

Look for potential problem areas:

Do any areas of the venue feel more crowded in person than you expected? Are there enough electrical outlets where you need them? Does the traffic flow make sense? Give all these things a look over while you are there. 

Two men talking about being prepared.

Bring an event bag!

Organizers are known to have just the thing in their event bag to tackle pretty much any problems that come up. 

These are the main categories of items a planner should have: 

Technology:

Cables, dongles, thumb drive (with keynotes backed up), phone and tablet chargers, and universal laptop chargers. 

Stationary:

Extra pens, sticky notes, and notecards. 

Tools and tape:

Screwdrivers, rubber hammer, pliers, any special tools needed to adjust media tables – pack all of them. Bring duct tape (which can fix just about anything), as well as other things like electrical tape, masking tape, and clear tape for places where you don’t want to leave a residue. 

Personal items:

Pack anything you need to be at your best. Special snacks. Favorite sunscreen. Comfy trainers. These are the things that will keep you happy out on the event floor. A snack break is also a great way to manage stress 🙂

For more, see our recent article, What’s in an event organizer’s bag.

Event organizer suggests all will work out.

Practice the plan. 

The unexpected can happen every day, all day, that’s just the nature of event planning.

Use the time before the event to hone some of your problem-solving skills. Create backup scenarios for smaller problems in your day-to-day work. Test out response times with your team and how you can better tackle issues together. 

Stress is never easy to manage, but the more we can practice our problem solving, the less we have to worry about on event day. 

Start preparing today.

Managing the unexpected all comes back to staying prepared during all facets of the event planning process. 

Start by thinking about what might actually go wrong (hint, it’s unique to your event), and write plans for those scenarios. Make sure you know what speakers and vendors need. Pack items that people might forget or could come in handy. And most importantly – practice your plan and how you want to react. You can’t predict exactly what will go wrong, but you can definitely be prepared for it. So be ready!

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