Remember the 89th Academy Awards in February 2017? When La La Land was mistakenly announced as Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight?
The fiasco was witnessed by millions of people watching the event. The proper protocol was simply not followed and that resulted in the mistake.
Just imagine how long it takes to prepare for an event like this, how many people are involved, all that it entails, everything that requires attention, and much, much more. So, failure happens even to the best of us.
Of course, you can’t always plan for everything, nor should you — when working on events — think that something will go wrong, but you should definitely be careful. Elementary things like venue, number of attendees, date, and time should be checked several times! We’ve put together an overview of some of the situations you might find yourself in, if you haven’t already.
Delays and timeline
One of the main speakers/panelists/participants is late. This is surely an unpleasant situation, and when it happens panic often starts to set in. That’s understandable, but it’s unsolvable. Consult with your colleagues on how to modify the agenda a bit and switch up the schedule to make deviations as small as possible. Just think about it, you would do the same thing if the person canceled their appearance at your event because they fell ill, or they were prevented for any other reason. Remember that before you start thinking that the world is coming to an end 🙂
Generally speaking, the timeline is important to keep track of as much as possible under the given circumstances. You know very well what that might look like when you are a participant in an event. Especially when it comes to bigger events that are attended by a lot of people. Everyone should get there in time, come in, get settled, and take their seats to get started. This process is not always quick, and it requires patience from both the event planner and everyone present. Sometimes a talk or presentation might take longer, sometimes the coffee break or lunch take ten minutes more, and sometimes someone is late. Keep all this in mind when creating the timeline for the event you are planning.
Budgeting and unexpected costs
When budgeting for your event, always count on unexpected costs. If you’re arranging transportation, it might happen that someone doesn’t get to the bus on time, which means you have to find another way for the person to get to the location where they are supposed to be. Or, for example, guests at a company dinner will have more drinks than planned, or someone in the group changes their mind at the last moment, cancelling or deciding to go on a trip for which they haven’t signed up for. You may need to pay extra for equipment or change the initial number of coffee breaks. All in all, you should stick to the saying, “better safe than sorry.”
Testing, testing, one, two, three…
Murphy’s law and technical equipment often go hand in hand. Of course, you can’t predict failures — you have to deal with the situation on the spot with the person in charge — but there are some things you actually can prevent. You’ll easily find a few extra chairs or tables; this is usually not an issue. But what is? For example, if you need ten microphones for your event, make sure you get a few more in case one stops working. If you’re using headsets, always have extra batteries on hand just in case. The same goes for USB sticks that are used for presentations, so make a copy. Find out whether the speakers use MAC or PC laptops because the cables are different and ask if they need VGA or HDMI ports. Having an adapter handy would be safest.
The AC is not cooling enough
It seems trivial, but this can be a serious problem because some things come up on the spot, when your event already started. Of course, nowadays every venue is air-conditioned, but sometimes the AC simply can’t cool the entire space for larger number of people. That is why it’s always important to go through the technical details at the venue where the event is taking place and, among other things if the AC is functional in the way it is supposed to be. Even if you find yourself in that situation, luckily there’s Plan B — renting extra cooling systems. This can get expensive, but it’s one obvious example of why the budget should leave room for unforeseen expenses.
Where’s the parking?
This issue is especially important for event planners. Sometimes this item gets forgotten. That’s why your planning must include finding out how many people will be coming by their own cars, whether the event venue has designated parking, what is the cost, and how many vehicles can park. Another important note is that some venues/hotels might require license plates and/or names of the people who will be coming by car. Prepare this information on time!
Of all the things that can get complicated at an event, perhaps the most unpleasant one is when the event is virtually non-existent. The venue is paid, the presentations are ready, the catering is organized, everything is served, the gifts are wrapped for the participants. But the participants are nowhere to be found! Only a few people came. Why is that? In most cases, there are three reasons. First one, because no one knows about your event. The question you need to ask yourself as a planner is this: “What have I done and how have I tried to get as many people as possible to hear about my event?” And today there is really a multitude of options for that, some of them require bigger budgets, some not. Media partnerships, newsletter alerts to target audiences, ads, banners, PR articles, TV coverage, etc. Yes, this is an additional cost indeed, but certainly lower than the cost you would pay if no one showed up.
Second reason may be that you did not brand your event as relevant to your target group, which is very important job and generally takes a couple of years, and depends on the overall company’s business or organization as an organizer and the relationships they have (or you have) with key stake holders.
And the third reason can be very simple, but often neglected – if other important event/events is/are on the same day, so that can affect number of your potential attendees, whether it is a festive day, a slava, even depends what day of the week is it. Keep all this in mind when choosing the date and time of your event.
Take a deep breath and think about learning from mistakes :), as well as from contingencies. One might argue that this is one of the advantages of event planning. Overcoming obstacles and other things happening that are most certainly not on your agenda. This is what builds your professional capacity, as does openly talking about your experiences. Have you got any stories like this that you would like to share?