Expecting the Unexpected in Event Planning

Expecting the Unexpected in Event Planning

Factoring in the unexpected should always be a part of your event planning process.One of the first things I learned in this industry was that expecting the unexpected is just a part of event planning. No matter how many meetings you have or checklists you complete, surprises can and will happen. As an event planner, however, my job is to use my years of experience and the right tools to adapt quickly to make the event successful.

Have a Backup Plan

At a recent event in the Dallas area, I worked with a team that was committed to creating something truly memorable. All of the pre-planning went very smoothly—something especially remarkable because the team was largely made up of volunteers.  The day of the event, we were even done with set up more than an hour before schedule, giving us some much-needed breathing room.

Then Texas weather, being what it is, decided to take a turn for the worse. A torrential downpour hit, leaving volunteers soaked as they ran in and out of the building where the fundraiser was housed. Even worse, power went out in surrounding cities. While the lights stayed at the event location, internet service didn’t.

Considering that everything from check-in to raffle tickets were being managed online, you may think that the event would largely come to a screeching halt. It didn’t, however, because we knew that the unexpected can indeed happen and that having a backup plan is a must.  We came to the event with a printed registration list, and the event team went to work to track donations, drink orders and raffle ticket purchases. It wasn’t as convenient as having online services available, but paper and pen kept the event moving until the internet was back up hours after the first guests arrived.

Find the Right People

Most events, regardless of size, have a distinct purpose. It can be recruiting new hires, educating key clients on your product, rewarding top performers, or raising money or awareness for a cause. To achieve the goal you have set, it’s critical to work with the right people.

But what does that mean?  Too often, organizations think that sheer numbers can avoid problems. In fact, it’s the opposite.  Every person participating in your event need to know its purpose, the role they are there to play, and why what they do is so important. In short, they need to be committed.

The same Texas-based event I mentioned above was dependent on the work of volunteers. Making the event successful required careful coordination with those volunteers and keeping them both motivated and focused. Some were in charge of soliciting items for the silent auction; others worked on event design and set up. Another group was assigned to work at the event.

By touching base with volunteers frequently and laying out expectations, those who were less engaged largely weeded themselves out. This left a committed core group who rose to the occasion so that when the unexpected did happen, they were willing to take on the challenge of addressing it.

Capitalize on the Unexpected

Sometimes the unexpected comes in the form of something positive. For example, at one event we planned, flashing, branded cups were included in a “VIP” package along with several other event extras. Those cups became the must-have items of the evening. Not only did having one of the cups mean you didn’t have to purchase additional drink tickets, it was a bold way of showing support for the fundraising event.  Holders also took countless photos of themselves holding the cup and posted them on social media—further highlighting the event’s cause and purpose.

So what’s the takeaway here?  First, be willing to provide your guests something they don’t expect. Here, an inexpensive cup both surprised and delighted guests, who then shared that excitement with friends both online and off. Second, be prepared to capitalize on the unexpected. To be honest, no one could have anticipated just how popular the cups would become, but we were ready to take photos and capture participants’ in-the-moment, event feedback that can easily be used to promote the event in the future.

Can you cover every contingency when it comes to event planning? Probably not. But by having a backup plan, putting the right team in place and maintaining willingness to capitalize on the unexpected, you can make the most of your next event.

Ready to talk about your next event? Connect with the eCubed Events team  now.