Frightening PR: Event disasters and how to avoid them

A few weeks ago, we shared a checklist to help you plan and promote events successfully. For me, the planning stages of event preparation are the easy part. There’s set protocol, you’re working with a team you know and you have full control over the outcomes. The day of the event, however, is far from standard. Though you work tirelessly to prepare for the unexpected, there’s always the chance that something could go horribly wrong. This idea strikes fear into my little PR heart.

In my work and experience as an event attendee, I’ve experienced a few event disasters, and I want to help you avoid them.

  1. Your outdoor festival is interrupted by a massive thunderstorm.

Mother Nature is rarely invited, but sadly she doesn’t care that she isn’t on the guest list. You need to have a contingency plan any time your event takes place outdoors. There are a couple of options to consider when it looks like your event will take place on a rainy day. You can rent tents, secure an “in case of rain” venue, set a rain date or cancel the event. Regardless of which option you choose, you need to make the decision early and clearly communicate it to your guests when they purchase tickets or register to participate. Even if you communicate this information on the front end, be prepared to answer questions the week of the event, as some guests may have forgotten or did not read the fine print.

  1. Technology fails you.

You paid an amazing ticketing platform that allows you to seamlessly sell tickets and manage your guest list. It’s the day of the event and the venue lets you know that the Wi-Fi is down, and won’t be fixed until your event is over. This is just one tech crisis that can occur on the day of the event, and in my personal experience, I’ve found that even the most trusted digital resources tend to go on the fritz on event days. So, I always have a manual back up of any guest lists, check lists or spreadsheets I need. Print all of your ticket information ahead of time and be prepared to sell tickets at the door using cash. If you have the funds, invest in a mobile hotspot to keep your devices online regardless of the venue’s Wi-Fi situation. Have spare chargers on hand for cameras, phones and laptops. Pool your office resources and bring multiple laptops or tablets to the event in case one isn’t working properly. I also recommend having at least one Mac and one PC. Projector and screen connectors can be finicky, and some prefer one operating system over the other. And finally, do a dry run of any presentation at the venue. There is nothing that is more stressful than trying to solve a tech crisis as your audience is arriving.

  1. The contracted items are a mess.

One of the most challenging facets of event planning is vendor management. You may be working with five to seven vendors just to pull off one event. Getting the rentals, catering, music, and venue arranged properly requires organization and concise communication. I recommend reaching out to all of your vendors two weeks before the event to confirm all of the details. Then, have a call the week of the event to make sure everything is on track. Ask to see an itemized invoice ahead of time to ensure that you’re being billed properly and everything you expected is included. Don’t make any assumptions, ask your vendors clear questions about what is included in their fees.

Once you’ve experienced an event mishap, you realize that they are often inevitable and generally go unnoticed. That doesn’t mean they don’t add undue stress to your plate! But, if you try to think through everything that could go wrong and prepare on the front end, the likelihood an event mishap will turn into a true disaster is low.

What’s an event mishap that you’ve overcome? Share your story with us!