When Bad things Happen to Good Event Planners

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I felt very proud of myself standing alone in the middle of a school playing field close to Wembley Stadium, I had cleverly hired it as a landing pad. I was now at the penultimate stage of a weekend event looking after some very important guests, whom I now felt were my friends. They’d been royally entertained at a castle in Sussex and were being flown in by helicopter to the big game. However, two hours later the helicopter had not arrived and with all my frantic calls my mobile phone battery went dead…

Fast forward to today.

What could possibly go wrong? You’ve planned everything meticulously, you’ve crossed the ts and dotted every available i. You’re certain that you haven’t missed a thing.

The truth is it is very difficult to have a backup plan or contingency in place for every eventuality, but you have to try and think your way around every problem you can reasonably foresee.

Of course you can bet your mortgage that the issue that raises its head is one you could not possibly imagine. After all you’re the PA, now event manager – not the all-seeing eye! And then there is good old fashion bad luck.

When things go wrong, (and if you attend any of my training I’ll tell you some howlers),they can go spectacularly wrong as I mentioned earlier. It will then depend upon your boss or client as well as your attitude and response to the problem at hand. Unfortunately in events you rarely get a second chance.

Here are my Tip Top Forget me Knots

1 Share your planning with a colleague, you can never see all of the problems when your totally immersed in a project, so run through it with others. Quick note, don’t think that it’s the brightest person on the team who can spot the holes in your plan. Ask around – you might just gain new found respect for a colleague you may have overlooked in the past.

2 Ask and you shall be given – always check in with your suppliers, ask “what could go wrong?” You’ll be surprised how open and helpful they will be; they will have been on the wrong end of things many times.

3 Don’t assume – check in with your suppliers the day before the event, make sure the mobile number you have been given works. If possible get a back up number of the delivery driver. When it goes wrong you cannot have enough numbers.

4 Have a back up at the office or someone who has access to your database and a phone who can ring around for things that are missing or that haven’t turned up. This is invaluable and doesn’t cost much other than some flowers or a few pints

5 Back up batteries for your mobile (learn from my mistakes, please!). Have a spare battery.

6 Alternative communications. Buy some walkie talkies and extra mobile phones. They are all so cheap nowadays and are invaluable.

7 Carry a small rucksack with your event essentials in but make sure you have a small bottle of water and some fruit. When you’re dehydrated it’s hard to think. When your mouth is dry it’s hard to negotiate and it’s easy to forget to eat, so fruit is a small comfort.

8 If the venue is a big part of your event, run through everything with the venue contact who will be at the event (not the salesperson who will be safely tucked up in bed!). Get their mobile number. If they haven’t got a radio or mobile give them one of your spares.

9 Emergency out-of-office phone numbers for all of your suppliers, including all possible mobile numbers of their staff who are attending your event are essential.

10 Have alternative supplier numbers to hand. It has saved my life on numerous occasions. People such as access suppliers, a good DJ, licensed security, paramedics, a good AV technician, local taxis and a man with a van etc are all worth keeping at hand.

11 Don’t work alone, or understaff yourself. Manage, don’t do.

12 Insurance – you can insure against many eventualities such as rain via a Pluvius policy. It won’t save your event, but it will save your budget and your face. If you feel it is justified get it into the budget.

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About Author

Kevin began his event management company in 1992, in what can only be described as humble circumstances. Armed with a telephone, a one-line typewriter and a gut full of determination he built one of London’s top event management companies. At that time the internet was restricted to a few academics, he had no knowledge of the event industry, no contacts, no client base, no money and no experience organising anything more than a night out with the lads. His story is littered with anecdotes of event failures and successes, stories of shady ticket touts and shadier City clients. Overcoming the odds he forged an organisation that still trades to this day. Kevin has an easy way with people and audiences alike, his message, “How to Make Killer Events without the Corpses” is brimming with up-to-date advice and tips as well as signposting the minefields to avoid. He tours the UK throughout the year providing half-day courses in event management. www.emceventcourses.co.uk Kevin will be speaking at Office* Show in London this October. For full details see www.officeshow.co.uk

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