Event planning is both a science and an art – especially when you show up to the venue and discover everything that can go wrong has gone wrong. Whether you are hosting a social event, organizing an industry networking event, or managing a multi-day tradeshow, the smallest details can get your event way off track.
To help you out, we rounded up five common event planning emergencies (based on actual hurdles faced by ourselves and/or our customers). This way, when you feel the cold sweat of panic, you’ll have solutions at your fingertips – and can blow everyone away with how calmly you save the day.
HELP! MY EVENT SUPPLIES DIDN’T ARRIVE
True story: one event planner we know showed up to set up for a conference she was hosting in Chicago only to discover an entire suitcase of event supplies hadn’t made it to the venue!
This emergency can be solved by a little bit of creativity. First, take an inventory of what you have, as well as what is missing. Then, check with the venue, AV, and other vendors to find out if they have any of the supplies you need. For example, if you are missing an easel or duct tape, chances are another vendor has them on hand.
If you are missing the materials that really make your event pop, then it is time to go shopping. Head to an arts and crafts store or a superstore like Target to find color tablecloths, fake flowers, or other supplies that will help you replicate what you are missing. (Martha Stewart has some suggestions here.) While it will never be the same as what you originally planned, doing some quick thinking to find similar materials will allow you to still make the event pop.
SHOOT! MY KEYNOTE SPEAKER BACKED OUT
One of our customers planned a financial services conference featuring Anthony Scaramucci as keynote, only to have him back out two business days before the event.
Now is when you need to turn to your network. Be transparent about what happened and what you are looking for as a replacement. In an ideal situation, you will have a trusted circle of event advisors who will know someone who can take the keynote’s place. If not, ask the former keynote speaker if they can find a replacement, or reach out to your other speakers. You may also need to get creative and, instead of hosting a keynote, find something more informal to do with that time slot.
Above all, be sure to remain respectful of everyone’s time and commitments – and consider updating your speaking agreement!
WELP! I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PRINT COPIES
We hear this one a lot: the event planner showed up to the venue only to realize they need another 20 copies of the agenda.
There are generally two options here: find a local copy shop and hope they are still open, or print online with Mimeo. The advantage of Mimeo is we take orders as late as 10 pm ET for delivery by 8:30 am local time. Plus, if you ordered with us originally, we already have your files, so you simply have to re-order, which takes…about one minute. Leaving you time to move on to your next emergency.
However you are dealing with your print, remember to use your most up-to-date files, inform the printer of any crop marks, and find an on-demand printer so they don’t charge you for 400 copies when you only need 40.
FUDGE! MY EVENT APP ISN’T WORKING
Everyone loves an event app until it stops working. Whether the issue is bad wifi, software bugs, or all of the internet is down for an hour, if your event app breaks, it can cause some serious snags in your event.
This is particularly true if your event sponsors rely on the app for visibility to attendees or access to lead management. In that case, a broken app leads to an unhappy sponsor…sometimes even to the point that they decide not to renew their contract for your next event.
That is why it is important to have an analog back-up for the most important functions of the event app. Need to communicate the schedule? Make sure you have signs or even printed agendas available to attendees. Trying to increase sponsor visibility? Be prepared to shout them out, facilitate introductions, and flash their logos across screens. Scanning event badges for leads? Prepare with fishbowls for the traditional business-card-drop in case the app goes down.
All it takes is a few hours of contingency planning to make sure you have a plan and supplies in case your event app decides not to work. Considering how important apps have become, it will be worth the planning!
MAMMA MIA! WE DON’T HAVE ENOUGH FOOD
Hopefully, your caterer is prepared to solve this problem for you. If they aren’t, though, this major problem can make or break the event. After all, there is nothing attendees remember more than the food at a party or conference.
If you end up with way more attendees than you prepared for, start problem-solving as soon as possible. You may want to increase appetizers so that people will take less food from the buffet. Alternatively, it might be time to call in reinforcements and order in from a local restaurant. Whatever you do, make sure you have the plan before attendees start asking for food – otherwise, it might be too late to save the day.
Event planning is stressful, but if you take the time to plan for potential emergencies ahead of time, you will be that much better prepared to tackle them when they pop up. Download our Event Planning Checklist to keep prepping!