When it comes to event planning, many things are out of your control. From extreme weather to the war in Ukraine, there are plenty of things happening globally that as an event planner you may have no power over, but still impact your world.
However, there are always steps that you can take to be more prepared and ensure that there are processes in place to allow for calm decision-making and agile action when the unexpected arises.
In this article, we’ll look at how you can mitigate the impact of far-reaching crises on your events and give you top tips on what to do if and when disaster strikes.
Let’s get started.
Tackling the impact of macro challenges on your events
The next crisis may not be as full-blown as a worldwide pandemic but macro events such as industrial action or extreme weather can cause widespread disruption at any time, anywhere in the world.
Ask the right questions
Three risk assessment questions you could ask yourself to better prepare for, and pre-empt a potential crisis include:
- What activities are occurring in proximity to your event (including current and planned strikes, political unrest, military action and/or conflict)?
- What is covered by your event insurance and in particular, your force majeure clause?
- If you had to cancel a venue or supplier due to unforeseen circumstances, what would be the ramifications? Would you incur a cancellation payment or receive a credit for future use across your events?
Having the right event technology in place can also help you to tackle the impact of unexpected macro challenges on your events.
Event technology can provide detailed data on which attendees may be affected and where they're located — which can then inform what action you need to take to ensure their safety or attendance.
For example, major industrial action by air-traffic control or train drivers could leave your attendees stranded or unable to reach your event.
Using event technology to analyse registration data, hotel room bookings and travel itineraries will give you a clear picture of who is impacted and what you can do to help.
In this scenario, potential solutions include providing replacement coach services, issuing Uber vouchers, or organising airport hotel accommodation.
Once you've assessed the available data to inform your decisions, it’s time to communicate with all affected parties and stakeholders.
Concise and fast communication is key, so the last thing you need when a crisis unfolds is to be chasing approvals on what to say and deciding on the most appropriate channels to use.
Ensure your crisis communication plan is therefore pre-approved and ready to implement.
You could have a detailed plan for each type of macro situation, or you could have a more generalised plan with clear action points on who to email, what to post on your event website, which social media channels to use or what notifications to push out via the event app.
Get full visibility beforehand
Using different systems to manage your events will prohibit your ability to act quickly should a crisis emerge.
In contrast, using one platform will allow you to access registration and delegate data, share contract details, schedule communications, and view itineraries and room bookings.
The resulting visibility across your entire event programme means that you can be more agile and make decisions faster.
Tackling unexpected challenges at your event
Let's face it: if something could go wrong during your event, it probably will. Perhaps one of your speakers has cancelled at the last minute or attendance is lower than expected on day one of your event.
Whatever the challenge, it's important to remain calm and plan ahead.
Have a communications plan in place
In recent years, we’ve seen record temperatures cause venues' air conditioning to fail, while train and bus strikes have also disrupted events.
How you respond to these ‘in the moment’ challenges could determine the future loyalty of your event visitors and what they have to say about you on social media channels.
If your event is underway when a crisis breaks out, having a clear, pre-approved communications plan in place will help you quickly provide instruction or give attendees a full range of choices.
For example, should the air conditioning go down on the hottest day of the year, your attendees would appreciate free cold drinks, ice cream or even a battery-powered fan to keep them from leaving.
Or if there is a major incident that occurs in the vicinity of your event, your attendees may appreciate you extending the event’s opening hours so that people can choose to stay and wait for the situation to change.
Choose your communication channels
Whatever actions you take to resolve the crisis, communicating them via an event app allows you to push notifications to a large number of attendees instantly. Don’t forget to send specific communications for sponsors and exhibitors as a crisis will impact them differently than attendees.
Ensure that your pre-approved communications plan further extends to all digital signage within the venue, as well as social media channels, your event website, and your email list.
Double-check that all channels are communicating the key information along with contact information to use if there are questions.
Finally, make sure a team member is then constantly monitoring your digital channels and can respond quickly to questions or complaints.
What happens next?
Disasters, whether due to macro or micro influences, have a way of exposing the cracks in the most well-run event programmes.
Review your systems and processes
Post-event is therefore an ideal time to review your systems and processes. Here are some things to consider:
- Were you able to quickly aggregate all your events and get the information you needed to assess the urgency of each situation?
- Were you able to understand the risks to your attendees and quickly communicate any changes to the status of your event?
- Strategically, were you able to understand the lead or revenue gap created by these disrupted events so you can get to work filling those gaps?
- What about the financial impact of cancelling or postponing your events?
In tandem with any strategic review, make sure you keep open the lines of communication to all registrants, attendees, suppliers, sponsors and venues.
If you had to issue ticket refunds, for example, follow up to find out how satisfied the customers were with your response and to try and keep them onboard for future event attendance.
If you had to cancel a venue which can’t then be reused, automated RFP sourcing tools can save you hours trying to find an alternative venue that can meet your new requirements.
Reflect on improvements
Once the dust settles, what would you have done differently if you had to go through it all again? Maybe you could have better briefed onsite support with areas of responsibility or freed up more time for yourself to respond to unexpected incidents.
As event planners, we know all too well that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. At the same time, we also know what is said about the best-laid plans. So learn from every unexpected incident and review, test and go again.
The next unforeseen challenge will never be too far ahead.
Get more tips
Catch up on our recent webinar to get more insights from both planner and venue perspectives on how you can prepare your events for the unexpected.
With so many steps that go into planning an event, just keeping track of all your to-do’s can be a lot of work on its own. Use this actionable checklist to stay organised and efficient as you work through each phase of your event planning process.