When it comes to contingency planning for events, we often think about all that can go wrong first — we want to do our best to be prepared to keep participants and spectators safe and sound. But, before you contemplate how to respond to the unknown, you have to think about your own team and how they will handle the unexpected.

Contingency planning is organic to event planning. In fact, how you build your team will make or break the outcome when things don’t go as planned. If your team deploys before building response communications, your messages to the public will be confusing and do more harm than good. If you aren’t set up for purchases to respond to the situation, you could find yourself standing around just watching things go haywire instead of actively acquiring the needed materials.  Having flexibility built in to the plan will keep things fluid and moving forward when they could otherwise stop right in their tracks.

Begin by thinking about the many aspects of your event. From clients to participants to vendors, all will be affected when the unknown arrives. Plan your team structure in a manner that will allow you to touch all of the necessary parties at the right time with the pertinent information. Your Command Center should have a team within the team to steer the ship. That smaller team will lead their own respective groups funneling information out to the field as well as taking it back in to the Command Center as things develop. Develop a communications process for this team so that everyone who needs information will receive it. When something doesn’t go according to plan, adjust, deploy and then communicate to event participants. To accurately disseminate a cohesive and consistent message to the event, you need to create a network hierarchy. Here’s a quick list of people we’ve identified that will need information:

  • Clients
  • Participants
  • Spectators
  • National/Headquarters team
  • Local jurisdictions
  • Volunteers
  • Vendors
  • Sponsors
  • Warehouse (supply or quartermaster)
  • Communications staff including managers of email, social media and website

Regardless of who you need to inform when something doesn’t go according to plan, remember that your initial staffing plan should be built with this knowledge in mind: one smaller group is going to have to disseminate information and call the shots. Who will that be? With the proper structure right from the outset, you’ll be much better prepared to maintain order through what could otherwise quickly turn in to chaos.

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