Eventful Event Planning: How to prepare for the unexpected

Why are live events so exciting? Could it be the bustling of the crowds, the entertainment, the fun and games? Sure, it’s all of those things. It’s also the fact that they are a live experience. They can’t be DVR’d or streamed later on Hulu: they are happening once, hopefully on schedule, and absolutely anything could happen. Fun! Surprises! Disaster! The most fantastic performance of all time!

The possibilities are endless.

The anticipation of the unexpected is what makes events truly exciting. It’s also what can make event planning completely nerve-wracking. Unexpected things aren’t reserved for the day of the event. The entire planning experience is wrought with opportunities for surprise and chaos. Here are some tips to prepare for surprises during your event planning process, so you’ll be armed and ready for all of those day-of surprises:

  • Start Planning Early…Nothing breeds chaos like a time crunch. Let all
    your event partners know your event is in the making months ahead of time.

    • …so you can avoid: A community partner scheduling an event the same day, depleting the turnout for both events and creating tension between your groups.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate… The time to get the word out about your event to potential partners, vendors and participants is right at the beginning. Don’t worry if every detail is not in place. Reach out to everyone who might want to be involved as soon as possible, and keep in touch with them as the event develops.
    • …so you can avoid: A great potential participant doesn’t hear about your event until too late, or didn’t participate because they didn’t know enough about the event.
  • Set cut-off dates for participation… For your event you’ll likely need volunteers, vendors, entertainers and more. The more you need, the earlier your cutoff date should be, even for volunteers. After the cutoff date, thank the would-be participants, take their contact info and tell them they are alternates.
    • …so you can avoid: Two vendors drop the day of and you have no one to replace them. Or, everyone who wanted to participate shows up and there aren’t enough jobs for everyone.
  • Make a rain plan… Outdoor events are the most visible, and often the most fun. Unfortunately, if 100 percent of your events are outside, at least one or two will eventually have a run-in with Mother Nature.
    • …so you can avoid: Looking unprepared. Rain will dampen an event one way or another, but with a solid back-up plan, those who do still come out for a day of fun will give you credit for having an alternate location on the ready.
  • Have all participants sign something… Your event may require dozens of volunteers, vendors, entertainers and more. You may not have the time to screen every participant, but having them all sign an easy form agreeing to the terms of your event will help to self-screen those who are likely to be no-shows, uncooperative or inappropriate for your event.
    • …so you can avoid: Having no recourse to ask participants to step back if they are unable to fulfill the expectations of the event.
  • Have all planning finished and simply be “on-hand” for the weekprior and during the event… The only thing guaranteed about a live event is that there are no guarantees. Vendors will fall through at the last minute. All the wayfinding signs will be put in the wrong spots – and you’ll need to be the one with the time and the knowledge to make it all right.
    • …so you can avoid: Details fall through the cracks when we’re overwhelmed, and events are all about details. If you’re “ready” a week in advance, you’ll have a whole week to spend on those details that will keep people smiling throughout the whole event.

Events are tons of fun and tons of work. Be ready for the unexpected, and you can up the fun factor and lower your own workload in one fell swoop.

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