Something can, and will, go wrong.
So it is well and truly event season (OK yes it is always event season…) and the reality has hit. All the planning (I’m sure you’ve done some!) is over and it is time to deliver. Problem is, something will go wrong. Something unexpected will happen. And in fact… event pros know we have ‘known unknowns’ – so I guess it’s not really ‘unexpected’ is it?!
And no-one is immune to this. Sometimes we get lucky, but lets not pretend that is all our doing. Events have too many moving parts, too many people (aka – unpredictable hazards!) for you to be able to ‘control the uncontrollables’. And that’s not even talking about the weather.
And yes, our deadline doesn’t move. So the people are coming, the doors are opening ready or not!
As an aside don’t you think this is actually a good thing? A non-negotaable, one varbale that we can not change, so that helps with our decisions. We just get it done! Although admittedly, it does come with some added pressure at times.
How to predict the unexpected
Well just joking, you actually often can.
Of course hindsight will always be the wonderful thing. But give foresight a chance.
Following the preparation techniques of elite sportspeople, I sometimes like to visualise an event in advance, see the ‘movie version’ if you like, throwing in a few dramatic scenes for where your gut is telling you you’re feeling a bit thin on preparation or capability. This can then give you a playbook to unpack and speak with your team about. Where are you a bit nervy on this one? Share your fears! You can also do the what if ‘INSERT NAME’ got hit by a bus scenario… do we have cover? what is the succession plan?
Sit down pre event (phone off) and think through what your nervous about. And if something was to go wrong, where is the worst place it could happen? To who?
Expect the unexpected. Please.
There will always be something. We can’t always predict it, but we can plan for it.
We all have event day examples of where the keys are lost, the delivery hasn’t made it, someone didn’t show up, that storm, the breakdown (ideally vehicle not personal!), the technical (aka user) malfunction. So we need to plan for the unexpected.
- What will be the most important is how we react?
- how will we communicate?
- and how will we make decisions?
You can actually plan and rehearse for the unknowns.
And I think if we are realistic and clever, we don’t plan for every little thing, we plan for something. Of course, we need to identify the big risks, the most likely and the most impactful, and mitigate those, but for the rest, those little ‘known unknowns’, we are best realistically to create contingencies based on what we will do.
- Who will you speak to? who will need to know what?
- And not just them, who else? Where are the knock on effects?
- How will you speak, and where?
If you plan for scenarios rather than all the specifics, you should be in a good place when the unexpected hits.
There are many famous examples of major drama’s (and, many less famous, but massively important to you!). Our work is on public display, so it is hard to hide stuff ups in events, and, we don’t like to stuff it up. We work far too hard and are rightfully proud of our work. Our passion and inventiveness is often what gets us through the challenges, and that is what makes us, and our events, great.
Our Event Show podcast guest Lindy Murphy generously shared a great example on our show recently, where things went wrong on the worlds sporting stage. But they got through it. In style. They planned for the scenario, and show should we. I’ve shared a few examples previously… and drop me a line if you want to know the less public ones!.
And ultimately I think we are all ‘in events’ as we have chosen to enjoy our work (and life). Accepting that things will go wrong is important on this journey.
Just remember you only control the controllables. Don’t expect that you are big enough to control everything. Let’s try to not be too hard on yourself, or your team when the unexpected happens (and BTW remember you will need them to get you out of the crap when the next unexpected thing decides to land on you!). How we go about it back of house is as important as the end result front of house.
The 2 sides of events. Make it influential, AND, achieveble.
Events can be brilliant, but challenging.
We shouldn’t be just surviving, we should be thriving.
I’m working a lot with clients lately to make events more influential front of house (achieving the sales, engagement and action), and manageble back of house (feasible, possible and sustainable).
We want to get both sides right. The knowns and the unknowns.
Let me know if I can help you.