From the minute you decide to hold an event all the way until the last Thank You note is sent – there is always the “live” event dynamic. This means that anything can happen throughout the event life-cycle. Often times, it’s things that are at times completely uncontrollable.  It runs the gamut from unexpected construction to changes in jurisdictional requirements to severe weather.

As event planners, I’m sure this comes as no surprise — it certainly keeps us on our toes! Here are a few tips to help you to plan for the unexpected and react effectively when things pop up.

  • Be proactive and aware. Before the event week, think of what could go wrong and figure out solutions to potential issues. For example, weather can wreak havoc on an outdoor event. Fortunately, weather predictions have become more accurate and are available weeks in advance. This past summer we experienced a mid-western heat wave during one of our multi-day events. Taking the National Weather Alert seriously, we started planning days in advance to alter the event and keep our participants out of the dangerous heat. Not only did this allow for a safe and positive experience for our participants, but we were also able to communicate clearly about the changes in advance to set expectations.
  • Do the right thing. When presented with challenges and last minute issues, it’s often tempting to cut corners (which could hurt the event, and put your participants in harm’s way, in the long-run). When the U.S. government shut down in October, we were presented with a huge dilemma. We had several parts of our route and sites in National Park administered locations in the Washington, D.C. area which meant that during the shutdown our previously approved permit was not valid. These areas were not necessarily blocked off, so we could have used them anyway. Considering all employees were furloughed, this seemed like a plausible possibility right?. Who would be checking? Probably no one, but we decided to not take that risk, did the right thing and re-planned 40% of our event. It created more work but in the long-run, we kept the trust of our governmental agency contacts which will bode well for future events held in Washington, D.C.
  • Go with the flow. There really is no way to control Mother Nature. All you can do is be prepared and have all of your ducks in a row with a solid overall event plan. This brings confidence to the team executing the event and which will allow them to tackle whatever comes their way. So, when the fires do pop up, you can go with the flow, handle them as well as you can and still keep the event focus intact.

Many unforeseen situations can pop up while executing an event. However, by being proactive, aware, doing the right thing and going with the flow, these unknowns can be dealt with in a logical and timely manner. Taking these actions will ultimately provide your participants with a meaningful, memorable and safe event experience.

Sarah Coniglio works as our Director of Event Production and Rene Tamayo as our Tour Manager.

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