Managing the unexpected: unavoidable in event planning

Managing the unexpected: unavoidable in event planning

We are all famil­iar with Murphy’s Law i.e. “Any­thing that can go wrong will go wrong”. Dur­ing events, it some­times feels like this law applies to every­thing. It can start with a small inci­dent, such as a tick­et print­er break­ing down. Then every­thing starts falling like domi­noes, until you have no pow­er, no speak­er, and no food for the atten­dees. You are already pressed for time when you plan an event, so how can you take the time to plan for the unex­pect­ed? How do you plan for a dis­as­ter?

Even though the word “dis­as­ter” makes things seem apoc­a­lyp­tic and over­whelm­ing, we are most­ly prompt­ing you to pre­pare for what will not go accord­ing to plan. It can help you to organ­ise the chal­lenges you will face by lev­el of seri­ous­ness. A print­er fails? that’s a mild inci­dent. Rain starts pour­ing dur­ing an out­door event? this is a major issue. The only way to avoid seri­ous issues is to plan for what you can­not con­trol and, even then, to remain flex­i­ble enough to act and roll with the punch­es.

The main levels of consequence

Cat­e­goris­ing issues by lev­el of con­se­quence can help you under­stand how to man­age them before and dur­ing the event. The list below isn’t com­pre­hen­sive — no list can account for all pos­si­bil­i­ties. How­ev­er, it will help you think about the issues for which you must have a plan, and those from which you can recov­er quick­ly. Think of it as an exer­cise in prag­ma­tism.

Level 1: easy-to-solve issues

Inci­dents that are easy to solve are either unex­pect­ed or avoid­able depend­ing on the sys­tem in place. Here are a few exam­ples of easy-to-solve issues:

  • Nev­er-end­ing queues
  • Short­age of walkie-talkies
  • Change in venue
  • Can­cel­la­tion of a speak­er and pro­gramme update

Level 2: Major change in the initial plan

These issues are a mix between lack of con­trol and the unex­pect­ed. They can be:

  • Short­age of drinks or food
  • Dam­aged video equip­ment
  • Faulty inter­net con­nec­tion
  • VIPs- or ser­vice providers-relat­ed issues

Level 3: Danger zone

This cat­e­go­ry is out of your hands. This does not mean that you can­not plan any­thing to take action if they do hap­pen. By prepar­ing ahead of time, you can pre­pare back­up plans depend­ing on the infor­ma­tion you have. Here are a few crit­i­cal things to mon­i­tor:

  • Weath­er fore­cast
  • Nat­ur­al dis­as­ters
  • Pow­er short­age
  • Med­ical emer­gency
  • Flood­ing of the venue
  • Cater­er no-show
  • Drag­on attack

Practice makes perfect

Through­out your life as an event plan­ner, you will come up with tips and tricks and will get to know by heart all the issues that can arise. Expert plan­ners build up a list of — some­times unwrit­ten — rules to guide them through the plan­ning stages. For instance, are you using vol­un­teers? Plan to use as few as pos­si­ble and do not expect the same lev­el of exper­tise from them as you would from a pro­fes­sion­al. You are expect­ing VIPs? Give them the best treat­ment pos­si­ble, and leave them time to pre­pare and trav­el.


One piece of advice: have con­fi­dence in your­self! If you are unsure about an ele­ment of your event, whether logistics‑, food‑, location‑, or weath­er-relat­ed, fol­low your intu­ition and pre­pare back-up plans. If you are using a cater­er for the first time and you have a bad feel­ing about their reli­a­bil­i­ty, find anoth­er. Lis­ten to the con­cerns of your peers, lis­ten to your instinct, and believe in your­self!

Relieve a lot of your con­cerns by choos­ing a reli­able part­ner to sup­port you in man­ag­ing and mak­ing your event a suc­cess. Click on the but­ton below and plan your event serene­ly:

More infor­ma­tion

You have now subscribed to our newsletter!