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30 Sep 2014 | By Sun International

Event planning: Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to successfully planning an event or conference, it's always best to expect the unexpected. Whether it's a last minute scheduling conflict, power outage, or equipment failure, if something can go wrong, it probably will.

Stay one step ahead of any mishaps with these event planning troubleshoot tips.

1. Checklist everything

A week before your event, re-check your details, from attendees to suppliers. Make notes of everything that could possibly go wrong, and develop a contingency plan. Write up a contact list of everyone involved in the event, and hand it out to your team. This includes vendors, suppliers, staff, speakers, entertainers and anyone else involved in the smooth running of your event.

2. Arrive early at your conference or event

It's important that you and your team arrive at the venue early. This will buy you some extra time if changes need to be communicated, or Plan B options rolled out. If the weather is looking ominous, and you need to move your outdoors event inside (because you'll have a contingency plan for the weather), then arriving early means that your team can put up visible signs for event guests and suppliers.

3. Stay calm when problems arise

Smaller mistakes tend to go unnoticed if there’s a positive and relaxed atmosphere at an event. If things do go wrong, you won’t help anyone if you try to solve problems while you’re panicking. Keep in contact with your event team and venue staff. If possible, use VHF radios to stay in touch throughout the proceedings. This gives you immediate access to help when you need it.

4. Make sure your Plan B is ready to be rolled out at a moment's notice

When large numbers of people and large amounts of money are at stake, there is no such thing as being over-prepared. Make a backup plan for everything that can possibly go wrong. For the really important things, have two backup plans. Here are some common mishaps to prepare for:

  • Your guest speaker is a no-show: have a back-up speaker waiting in the wings to step in and save the day.
  • A vendor cancels at the last minute: have a list of back-up vendors (caterers, entertainers, etc) on file that you can call on if a hired vendor fails to fulfill their contract.
  • Unexpected bad weather: if you're planning an outdoor event, you should have a contingency plan in place to move your event to a secondary indoor venue should the weather turn bad.

5. Keep the lights on

Plan for the possibility of a power outage. Emergency generators are a great solution, but even they can fail or run out of fuel, and many backup generators have insufficient generating or fuel capacity to keep anything but the most essential systems up and running.

When negotiating with your venue, make sure that the venue has a contingency plan in place in the event of a power outage. Any effective plan will identify and address existing vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and sometimes that means bringing in extra equipment. Prepare a game plan for what happens if key equipment loses power or if generator fuel runs low, and plan accordingly.

6. Technology failures

Technical glitches are almost a given, but standing in front of a crowd during an event presentation is no time to experience a technical fail that you don't know how to handle. Always test your equipment beforehand, and if your AV provider does not offer onsite technical support, be sure you understand exactly how to use all the equipment you've selected. Also, be sure to have an alternative method of presentation in place should your equipment inexplicably fail. This way, you will be able to continue your presentation no matter what happens.