Contingency planning: Preparing your event to succeed.
One of the most exciting, but also one of the terrifying aspects of event planning is that everything is possible, including the unexpected. No matter the amount of planning previously done, it is not possible to control everything, from the weather to the guests and suppliers. Therefore, the only certainty an event planner has is the uncertainty of the whole process. Although risks are an integral part of any event, not all event management agencies develop a plan B, which is a mistake. For disruptions to the original plan may occur, some at a small scale and others at a big one. Thus, you'd better be prepared!
Preparedness is a lesson we successfully applied last month in Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro has been hit by torrential rains which have been bad enough to sow chaos in the city. Last April, one of those storms hit Rio precisely on the days of our event, a Symposium for a German company. The municipality declared a state of emergency and every aspect of the Symposium was affected. Guests were arriving at the peak of the tempest. They had their flights redirected to another airport and times changed at the last minute before boarding. All 130 guests coming from all over Latin America and Europe had been given a phone number to call in case of changes. Due to the circumstances, very few did. That made it nearly impossible to predict arrival times and cancellations for the transfers we had so neatly planned long before. The heavy rain played havoc in the city and the 15-minute route to the venue booked for the dinner after the Symposium had been profoundly affected, making it unsafe and unreachable. Besides, a few suppliers were unable to travel to and from our location. Under such extreme weather conditions, the event could have been completely ruined, if it wasn't for the fact that we had been preparing for it months in advance, amid good weather and the promise of a dry April by diverse weather forecasts. Sometimes we may have come across as ‘a bit odd’, like ‘Noah’ building a large boat for a flood no one could see coming. However, the ‘Noah effect’ was a real saviour, and it paid off every extra hour we had worked putting in place solutions for what would become eventual disruptions.
The planning of solutions for potential problems is known as contingency planning, and it differs from risk management in that it covers a broader range of event planning aspects, not only health and safety. Contingency planning encompasses local knowledge, experience, problem-solving skills and a significant amount of ‘what if’ questions to deal with possible issues such as traffic delays and no shows. Contingency planning is a crucial but often overlooked part of event management, and although it is impossible to prepare for everything, organisations can think of things that could go wrong and prepare for these worse case scenarios. A contingency plan should be developed and improved throughout the preparation phase of the event and be open to inputs of the whole team.
Follow these steps to create an efficient contingency plan for your next event:
Think of the possible risks
Start by identifying the risks that may arise from holding an event, both internal and external threats, for instance, bad weather or low attendance.