You’ve made all your plans, checked everything on your list, made all your confirmation calls, texts and emails. And still, things are not working the way you anticipated. Before you start to pull your hair out, remember that the most amazing events usually result from some form of controlled chaos. And of course, the bigger the event, the more moving parts… hence, the greater amount of chaos!
Still, it’s no fun when staff and supplies don’t show up on time, glasses break, fuses blow, you discover that an important sponsor’s name has been misspelled in the program, the Wi Fi won’t connect, the MC is barfing in the bathroom or nobody thought about what to do with all of those umbrellas.
Here are a few things to remember when you feel the ground dropping out from under you:
1) Don’t panic.
Seriously. If you need to, find someone to slap you across the face so you can snap out of it. Save for an actual emergency where life or limb is at stake, most problems you face during an event are not life threatening. Be grateful you’re not working a cocktail party on the Titanic. Get some perspective! Take a deep breath, count to ten and work the problem.
2) Keep your sense of humor.
I can’t stress this enough. We all know that expectations can be pretty high when you are planning an event. Reputations are on the line, budgets and timelines must be met, and everyone is looking for positive outcomes. But what good is making your bottom line if you’re making yourself and other people miserable along the way?
Instead of screaming, try to find something to laugh at in your situation. C’mon, you have to admit it’s a little ridiculous that the napkins were delivered GREEN instead of BLUE. And so what that the lighting designer blew out the DJ’s circuit? Now you can introduce that Irish spoon player who you’ve been promising a big break.
3) Communicate swiftly, accurately and honestly.
If the problem is something that your client is going to notice, address it immediately. Don’t try to cover it up. Be direct. With confidence. Understand? I’m not advocating that you run to your client with half the story. Yes, you need to let them know that the models are getting dizzy from the fumes from the not-quite-dry paint in the dressing room, but also that you’ve secured an office down the hallway, and the costume racks and make-up tables are being moved there as we speak.
4) Be flexible.
It sure would have been great to have the keynote speaker lead off the morning program. But who knew that he was going to miss his flight last night because his kid’s babysitter got stuck in emergency pothole repair traffic on the way to their house, and he would be forced to take a red-eye that was still circling above the airport while they de-iced the runway? Good thing your afternoon session leaders are all there and you can reschedule the breakouts for this morning and begin the after lunch program with a rousing presentation by your headliner. Repeat after me. I am bendy like an experienced yogi. I am bendy…
5) Remember, you are not alone.
If you are engaged in what seems like a disaster, then congratulations! You are now a real life event planner. If you really think you are losing it, please call one of your other event planner friends and cry on the phone to them. You will feel better – might even come away with an unexpected idea or two, and a good laugh. When all else fails, remember, unlike childbirth (which really does last forever, but that’s another post), this too shall pass…
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