One of the best parts of our job is creating amazing experiences for our participants. However, it’s not always possible to please everyone. Mix in the emotions that come with participating in a cause-related event and the activity people are completing, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to see participants take their frustrations to a new level. It’s kind of like a wedding where you get to see people at their best and, unfortunately, at their worst. Everyone in the event business knows who we’re talking about: the unruly participant.

Despite all of your planning and execution efforts, you have very little chances of making an unruly participant happy. The unruly participant shows up in a variety of ways: arriving late, being demanding, acting inconsolable over their favorite snack running out or breaking every guideline you have established. Sadly, those few participants can have a big impact on not only their experience at the event, but everyone that they run across.

For the most part, we are fortunate to work with inspiring, motivating people who truly go the extra mile. But every now and again, you will run into someone who needs some special attention and be reigned in. Here are some helpful tips on dealing with those unruly event participants: 

  • Have a plan. If you’re making big changes to how things have been done, anticipate what past participants’ complaints or actions will be. Be ready to deal with it head on while re-establishing expectations.
  • To contain the conversation, find an area for a private conversation.
  • Giving your undivided attention (which can be really hard while on event), listen intently and try to discern why they are so unhappy.
  • If necessary, communicate event protocols and provide reasoning for why they are in place. While it’s important for an unruly participant to simply be heard, it’s also important that you’re able to use this conversation as an opportunity to educate the participant.
  • Do what you reasonably can to make sure the participant has a positive event experience. Provide options or corrective actions that can assist or support the participant in still having a fun time.
  • If the communication between you and the participant is not working, ask another staff member to step in and take your place.
  • If the participant or participants are unable to play by the rules and do not understand that their actions are not conducive to a positive event experience, you may have to ask them to leave the event. In this extreme case, confer with your senior event managers or client to take action. While difficult, this may be the only option to deliver a safe and quality experience to others on the event.

At the end of the day, everyone’s main goal is to create, and enjoy, a positive and inspirational event experience. Undoubtedly, you will have some participants who make it a challenge to achieve this goal. The best course of action is to deal with the issue(s) head on to ensure that your event will be the most successful it can be.  

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