When planning an event, no one wants to think about the negatives and what could go wrong, but an inevitable part of event planning is sitting down and taking into account some of the issues that may come up during your event and how to handle these last minute changes effectively, with minimal disruption to the event itself.
Our Eventee app was born from watching some fantastic conferences descend into chaos based on small last minute changes to the programme. We wanted to pass on to you some techniques, tips and tricks (along with using our app) that can make dealing with last minute changes a breeze.
📖 What is event management ?
All events, from festivals through to corporate events will need an event manager in some capacity. The events manager, in short, is the person in charge of organising and executing the event, this can include things like managing budgets, booking speakers and marketing the event.
In practice, the event manager can end up being a one stop shop for everything to do with the event, from planning and execution, down to being the go to person when things go wrong. If you are an event manager, you need to read this article to get a handle on some great tips and techniques for your next event.
😱 What last minute changes could arise?
Before we dive any deeper, let's look at some of the common last minute changes that can occur at any event or conference to get an idea of what you should look out for and mitigate against while planning your event. By far, these were the top three problems our event managers spoke about, so it's worth thinking about how these mishaps could apply to your situation and what you would do to stop them arising.
Change in speaker
Having a last minute change in speaker is something that can crop up every now and again and unfortunately, often can't be helped. Anything from illness to childcare issues can call for a speaker to cancel at the last minute and threaten proceedings. In some situations, it is possible that you will have enough time to rearrange the schedule to accommodate a speaker but a speaker failing to show often happen at the last minute.
The thing that all ‘tech guys’ fear the most…. The dreaded on the day tech failure. Whilst it should be easy to mitigate against this happening, unfortunately it still happens far too often. We will focus on looking at what you can do to ensure all your sound and light is A-ok on the day later on in the article, but it's important to recognise that this is a problem that seems to regularly pop up, but could be easily avoided.
Another top last minute change that anyone who has ever visited a conference will almost certainly have experienced. A speaker answers questions for too long or the catering team doesn't keep up with hot drink orders during the break out session and you can easily find your event running 30 minutes behind. Once again, this a common problem, but one that is easy to be mitigated against with some forethought.
Whilst these are the top three last minute changes that came up for us, issues such as fire evacuations, traffic and travel issues for attendees and outside venue contractor issues were also high up on the list.
During our research for this, we were floored by some of the event horror stories that our event managers have had, so, purely for our office lunch break entertainment, we would love to hear any particularly terrible conference disasters, just so we can add it to our wall of fame.
🙏 Prevention is better than cure
So, let's cut to it. How do you make sure your event runs without a hitch and you have the recommendations, ‘follows’ and interest come flooding in after the conference? Well, the answer is multi-faceted.
We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘ a goal without a plan is just a wish’ and it couldn't be more true when it comes to conference planning. The first thing you will always want to do is prevent any issues from coming up before they arise is to plan.
Planning is key in preventing mishaps
Are you familiar with the 4P’s of military planning?
‘Prior planning prevents poor performance’
When it comes to last minute mishaps at events this phrase couldn't be more true. The first step of any good event or conference is to sit down and plan your event properly with as much of the team around you as possible. Getting a strong team in place and planning together from the start will ensure success and put a stop to any problems before they arise.
This is particularly true when it comes to parts of the event that can be done beforehand rather, than leaving it until the day of the event.
It is essential to have a back up plan, or indeed, plans. The day will always divert somewhat from what was on the agenda, however meticulously you have planned it. The best thing to do is to have a contingency plan available for every aspect of the day. Start by looking at what could go wrong and have a plan in place for each and every outcome. This approach, coupled with an event manager who can think on their feet and adapt quickly to any last minute changes means you are setting the event up for success.
The team you surround yourself with will really come into their own during the planning and execution process and will help you unhitch any potential problems that will see you get unstuck. Brainstorming with your team to come up with different situations and thinking of ways to solve them is a great way to make sure you have everything covered.
Each member of your team should be able to bring a different expertise, such as having a tech expert on hand to walk you through what equipment is available to you, as well as a team member with access to the finances who will be able to guide you towards what is achievable for the event. Also think about including a Health and safety advisor and operations assistant in your crack team.
Next up is one of our personal favourite techniques in thinking with your team to stop any problems in their tracks before they even happen.
Easy event planning exercise
Towards the end of the planning process gather your team and work your way around the room and ask each team member the following:
1. What do you think is the most likely thing to go wrong?
2. What would they choose to do to prevent that from happening at this stage of planning.
This gives each team member the opportunity to voice any concerns and avoid any of those, ‘ I told you so’ moments. It also means that each team member will naturally have to think critically about their area of expertise within the plan and gives you time to see if there are any glaring flaws in the overall plan.
Don't let your plans go down the pan before you see them come to fruition by not planning the financials effectively. Make sure you are up to date with what budgets have been put in place by the finance team. Be sure to always build a cash cushion into the budget for unexpected expenses that will inevitably arise. Having the funds quickly accessible means you may be able to dodge a bullet when it comes to unexpected and last minute changes to the conference.
delegate Delegate DELEGATE
Don't be afraid when it comes to delegation. Delegating to others better placed to deal with certain areas of the event is an important part of making sure the event runs smoothly. Furthermore, you can't be in two places at once. Delegating on the day tasks to others means you are free to think through your area of expertise and keep your eye on the ball. Need someone to take charge of the catering? Delegate. Need a list of the event VIP names...Delegate it. Delegation isn't something to worry about and can be the sign of a great leader.
As we mentioned before, a common pitfall in event management is timings. Plan sufficient gaps between sessions in the schedule and even go as far as to plan extra 10-15 minute ‘fire-breakers’ throughout your event to account for any over runs. A little bit of prior research about your speakers is also useful here, perhaps you have a speaker who consistently overruns or is always late coming to the stage? Do yourself a favor and plan for it!
Always prep as much as you can beforehand. Try not to leave things like making up the goody bags or assembling decorations until just before the event. Not only does it cause stress and mess at the venue, there is nothing like a last minute flatpack build between colleagues to ruin the atmosphere. As we mentioned above, a major factor in things going wrong on the day could be technology and equipment failures. Spend time ensuring you and your tech team check and double check equipment, whether you are using the company's own equipment or in house Sound and light, provided by the venue.
Create guidelines and checklists
Most event planners are total list junkies anyway, but during the preparation process we can’t go without mentioning the importance of a good list. Make sure that all the key players have access beforehand and on the day to all the guidelines and checklists that they need and that can be easily referenced should something arise.
Make sure those working at the event have adequate training to complete their duties. This includes all staff whether they are working directly within your company, the event venue or are perhaps being subcontracted by yourselves or the venue. This can be as simple as a short email brief on expectations, but the rule of thumb is, don’t assume anything. Clearly outline your expectations so everyone understands and also allow time for questions.
Having open communication with your speakers will aid you on the day of the event. Speaking to them beforehand in an open and honest way about expectations and limitations of the event, as well as useful information such as event parking can be surprisingly helpful in avoiding last minute issues that take up time and create stress. On the day, be sure to communicate all housekeeping at the venue, such as fire and evacuation procedures.
Having open communication also should extend to attendees at the event who should be communicated with as much as possible so they too also know procedures in terms of timings, entering and leaving the building and other conference essentials. It's worth noting that the well designed Custom menu feature on the Eventee app means organizers can upload guidelines for attendees, which appear in the menu bar.
💪 Get a handle on it
Ok, we get it, we must plan ahead to stop last minute changes, but what happens when things really get tough?
Despite your best laid plans, changes can still pop up, here is what to do on the day when, despite everything, things don’t go to plan.
Crisis management techniques
Circling back to delegation, consider building a small crisis management subteam who will be on hand to problem solve if things go wrong.
Communication is another key crisis management tactic we have already looked at. In this instance, make sure you have a communication escalation chain in place so everyone can be informed or updated quickly in the event of something cropping up.
Ownership- be sure to take ownership of the situation. A clear leader that event staff and attendees look to, will make rectifying any situation much easier. This is also applicable when it comes to any apologies that need to be made (don't let that worry you though, follow our planning and execution steps and you won't need to be apologising to anyone!)
How can an event management app (like Eventee) help you?
We can’t write about a topic like this without mentioning the vast benefits of using an event management app in dealing with on the spot issues and communicating them to staff and attendees effortlessly.
By using an app such as Eventee you will be able to see changes in the event agenda instantly whether you are a speaker or attendee.
On Eventee, users can enable the Newsfeed feature,meaning organizers can send attendees a push notification and inform them of any changes or updates to the schedule.
Know your roles
On the day, make sure all staff know their roles. Go over these at the briefing sessions beforehand so everyone has a handle on their individual responsibilities, meaning if a crisis unfolds in an individual area, it will be effortlessly escalated and dealt with.
Keep everyone at the event up to date with events by using the Eventee app to send real time updates to all attending the event.
Find issues before they arise
If you put into place all the above points in this article, you will find that you are able to discover crisis situations before they happen. This is the Holy grail of crisis management.
The event has happened and it has seemingly been a total success. Well done! But your work isn't over after the event has finished. Now it's time to get down to the nitty gritty and find out how the event really went.
Ideally, look to hold your wrap up meeting at least a few days after your conference, but not too long after so that it's still fresh in everyone's mind. They will have had time to process what went right and what went wrong. This is a really valuable time to think about what you can improve on for next time, what to keep the same and what to do differently.
✍️ Wrapping things up
As you can see, whilst there is a lot that can go wrong at events, don't let this put you off because there is a lot that can be done right too. Effective event planning coupled with using an event management app such as Eventee will mean your event will run seamlessly from start to finish.
If you are on your lunch break and fancy having a nosy into more of the cool features that Eventee has, you can check them out here