What’s your plan B? Preparing for event disasters

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In the world of small business, running events is a great way for small businesses to meet and connect with customers. Events allow you to get to know your customer base, gather great insights about them, and create an experience that will help them remember your brand when it counts. However, no matter how well prepared you are, the odd hairy moment can threaten to derail your plans and catch you off guard.

While you might not be able to predict these hiccups, knowing how to deal with them it could be the difference between event disaster and success.

Here are 10 common event issues and tips on how to tackle them quickly and well.

1. Last minute venue problem

It’s the day before your event and you get a call from your venue to say there’s been a problem and you’ll need to hold your event somewhere else. You get on the phone for a last minute call-round of alternative venues and manage to secure somewhere, but it’s on the other side of town.

Solution: Having online ticketing for your event (even free events) is really helpful. Rather than desperately trying to contact all of your attendees individually or put out a message online and hope they see it, having a list of registered attendees will allow you to email everyone personally at the touch of a button.

2. A major transport disruption

Australia’s climate is anything but predictable! Hot weather, torrential downpours, network failures, road accidents — there are so many factors that can derail the best-laid transportation plans.

Solution: If a major delay strikes on the day of your event, you can hope it gets remedied quickly and consider rescheduling your most interesting content for later in the day to avoid disappointing your attendees. You can also be helpful by keeping your guests informed about alternative ways to get to your venue via email or social media.

3. No one shows up

The number one fear of all event organisers is an empty room. You’ve spent what seems like forever planning, organised some great content and even persuaded a sponsor to support your event – that last thing you want is empty space!

Solution: Unfortunately, it’s particularly risky with events that are free-to-attend. If guests haven’t paid for a ticket there’s often no incentive to stay committed. You can mitigate the risk of empty seats by monitoring your ticket sales in real-time, and launching a last-minute promotion if needed. For free events, consider adding up to 30-50% additional ‘fat’ to the guest list than your capacity to allow for no-shows.

4. Too many people show up

It’s not the worst problem to have – but it can still cause an issue for you.

Solution: If you’re actively monitoring your ticket sales and registrations online, you shouldn’t be taken by surprise on the day, and you should have enough time to move to a bigger venue to cope with demand. You can also limit tickets and set up a waitlist so people know that you’re expecting a big crowd. If you’re running a free event and you have a limited capacity in your venue, consider employing door staff with counters, have a queue outside and advertise a ‘first in best dressed’ policy.

5. A speaker drops out

You’ve done the hard work and you’ve managed to secure a really interesting VIP speaker, and then it turns out that they can’t make it. Something’s come up, and their schedule just won’t allow for your engagement. These things happen.

Solution: Communication is key! Don’t leave your guests in the dark and think you can pull a fast one over on them once they arrive. It’s also a good idea to have a refunds policy in place so that you’re prepared to cope with disappointed attendees.

6. A speaker goes rogue

Your star speaker has gone off the deep end, sprung a surprise slide, sworn like a sailor, or uttered something offensive to your attendees. You can see the shock on people’s faces and the journalists scribbling in their notebooks already.

Solution: You have a decision to make – you can decide whether you let them carry on, or cut the mic and step in with an apology. Either way, your event is likely to get some extra attention for this, and probably not the best kind. It may blow over quickly, but it’s best to be on the front foot and prepare a statement on behalf of your brand to be ready in case of controversy.

7. Technological issues

When the technology gremlins strike, most people panic. At best, your event looks badly organised as you fluff about for 10-minutes trying to get it all up and running.

Solution: Venue walk-throughs with plenty of time to tackle last minute issues and assess the quality of things like AV and lighting will help you be prepared and are essential for ironing out AV problems. Keep an event tool kit with plenty of adaptors for PCs and Macs, extension leads and various other tech gadgets that might come in handy.

8. A sponsor complains

It’s a real coup to have landed a sponsor for your event and now they want their pound of flesh. But something has disappointed them.

Solution: Dealing with a disgruntled sponsor while in the midst of your event is probably the last thing you would like to do. Making sure expectations are clear from the start of your conversations is always the best option, as is having an event agreement in place when negotiating sponsorship deals. Discuss ways you can make it up to them via a post-event offer in your email communications so they still feel they’re getting value.

9. It’s raining at your outdoor event

The weather strikes again. Rain should always be expected, but you can’t exactly hold a summer BBQ party indoors.

Solution: Any outdoor event should have a wet-weather contingency plan and communicate this to attendees from the start. If it’s outside or nothing, make sure people know where they can go to find event updates on cancellations and what to do in the event of bad weather. Be clear on whether they are eligible for a refund, or if you reschedule for another day.

10. Half your volunteers don’t show up

Volunteers are often an essential part of an events success, that is until they don’t turn up and you’re several hands short of the help you were expecting to have.

Solution: Unfortunately, even if you’re offering great perks like free entry to the hottest sold out event, volunteers aren’t obligated to show up and can’t be fired for their poor work ethic! You can also ask vendors and event partners how many staff will be attending on the day to ensure you do not need to spare tight resources for others who came unprepared.

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Hosting events to grow your business

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