When you're planning an event the last thing you want is for something to go wrong. You might actually spend HOURS Googling "all of the things that could go wrong with my event and how to prevent them," and do you know what you'll find? Dozens of articles written by amateurs and professionals alike giving you the 5, 10, or 20 things "to do," "to avoid," "to prevent" disasters at your event.
These lists are useful. They help when you're planning an event, but what about when the event is already happening? Just as I'm sure your parents gave you advice, my parents used to say, "I was a teenager once. I know how you feel...," but their teenage life, like someone else's event is very different from your own. Life still happens, and sometimes, no matter how much we prepare to avoid things, someone still swerves into your lane.
The good news is you don't have to panic. We mean it, don't panic. Breathe. You have a backup plan. Oh, you don't have a backup plan? THAT'S OKAY TOO. The motto "hope for the best, prepare for the worst" need not apply at this point because why hope when you can be quick on your feet, execute, and make that disaster your...pet?
Below we've noted 9 things that may go wrong—some small, and some so big you'll think your event and your reputation will never recover. We can't promise the "right" answer for your situation, but we think they'll inspire some creativity in the face of an unfortunate circumstance.
You run low on ice
It's hot outside, and people are requesting ice faster than it can freeze. You still need to keep your drinks cold so here's a handy tip. Add cold water, some ice, and a lot of salt into a bucket or large bowl and add your canned or bottled beverages. They will be cold in 2-3 minutes.
On your day the music dies
You did your sound check twice, and the acoustics are just right—this party will be poppin'. AWESOME. But in the middle of the night the sound goes out, and the collective moan of the crowd makes your heart stop—then immediately start beating so hard you'd think you just finished a 10 mile run. First, have your audio folks start troubleshooting issues, and while they do that let guests know your team is resolving the issue A.S.A.P.
Now, it's time for you to get creative. Start your own version of a silent disco—encourage guests to blast their favorite song from their phone so each person is dancing to the beat of a different drum. Start a rap off or air guitar competition and offer prizes to the winners. Change it up, get inventive, it's okay to get silly.
Your keynote speaker doesn't show
Firstly, contact this person in every way imaginable. Facebook is not off limits here. Secondly, keep your cool and don't publicly shame them—you never know what could have happened. Depending on your situation you may be able to continue your program without announcing that your keynote won't be speaking, but only if the audience didn't know about the keynote in the first place. If the audience was aware of the keynote, and even more so if they paid to see this particular person speak, it's time for you to make the very painful, but necessary announcement. Offering a partial reimbursement may help diffuse discontent.
Your event is literally on fire
This is a serious one, and we're even going to get precautionary with it—safety first! Before your event date you need to know where all the emergency exits are, where the fire extinguishers are, and the venues evacuation plan. Fire extinguishes are only appropriate when a fire is small, contained, and not spreading. Even if the fire is contained pull the fire alarm to evacuate people from the building and notify the fire department. If there is too much smoke, the fire is spreading, or the alarm sounds—evacuate immediately. Don't under any circumstance return to a burning building. Learn more about fire extinguisher use and fire safety in assembly buildings here.
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On a side note, we all want a big party—the more people the better—but don't break fire code. If the venue holds 200, don't push it over 200. Not only is it dangerous, but having the fire department shut down your event 2 hours early would not look good for anyone involved.
Half of your event staff doesn't show
Similar to when your keynote speaker doesn't arrive, contact these people in every way possible. Do you have any friends or colleagues in the audience? It's time to call in the favors. Divide the uncovered work among whoever you can get your hands on.
Hardly anyone shows yo to your event
This "disaster" can vary. If you're expecting 25 people, and 10 arrive, that's not all that bad. Start to mingle, and let those 10 people know that you're grateful for their attendance—make it intimate. Now, if you're expecting 200 guests and 50 show you're going to need to boost your event's vibe by calling some friends, rearranging the furniture to fill in space, and possibly inviting some folks off the street. If you think you're guests would be up for the task, ask them to invite friends, and if said friends show up in a particular costume, they get a prize. Note: banana costumes always seem to be the winner here.
There's a difficult guest
We all know what the adult term for "difficult" is, but we'll keep it PG-13. This person is being rude, disruptive, or maybe they enjoyed the open bar a little too much. Humans do these things. Don't let them ruin your night or your event. Firstly, address them privately, and maybe grant them a warning. If the situation continues, politely ask them to leave. Again, ask privately when possible. If you can't get them out calmly, don't be afraid to call backup. If they do end up making a scene, promptly have the area cleaned and apologize to nearby guests.
You expected maybe 100 people to show, but 200 do. That's great! But now the lines are getting long and people start their special dances outside the restroom doors. Maybe someone was sick or didn't know not to flush paper plates down the toilet. Whatever the difficulty, you have a few options. Call an emergency plumber, or call any porta potty service you can find and get them delivered A.S.A.P. In the meantime, if the venue has kind neighbors ask if you can work something out with them until matters are resolved.
Your guests are bored
The energy of your event may become unexpectedly stale. This can happen no matter how many bells and whistles you've provided. Bored guests equal bad reviews, or even worse, absolute silence. Numerous people not talking about an event they went to speaks volumes all on it's own. There are many ways to liven it up, but you do need to be able to read you audience. Assess if they're having trouble finding or using something. If so, assign yourself or staff to help with wayfinding or demonstrations. The solution can even be as simple as changing up the music or announcing a new activity on the fly.
Every event is different. We can't know the "right" answer for your unique situation, but we hope these ideas and solutions empower you to face the unexpected head on. Embrace the excitement that is event planning and always remember to breathe!
If you have questions, we're happy to answer-reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was prepared by Dashing Fox Events, LLC in their own capacity. All data and information provided in this piece are for informational purposes only. DashingFoxEvents.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information or any losses, injuires, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.