The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we’ve all had to change and adapt as an industry, working around countless unforeseen challenges and obstacles. The events of 2020 are perhaps the most persuasive proof that no matter how well-planned your event, there will always be certain circumstances that are outside your control.

What you can do as event creators is be aware of these potential pitfalls and event planning mistakes, and make a contingency plan that puts you in the best position to turn things around quickly. Here are the top five things that could go wrong at your event, and the steps you can take to get everything back on track again.

1. The problem: participant drop-outs

Whether your keynote has had to drop out or one of your main acts has tested positive for COVID-19 and can’t attend, it can feel stressful when your carefully chosen event programme doesn’t work out. So, how can you start putting damage control in place?

The solution: have a back-up in mind

The first step is to get as much advance notice as possible that your participant is unable to attend. This will give you time to put your back-up plan into action. It’s a good idea to insert a clause into your contract that states participants should give 24-hour notice of cancellations, so if they’re in any doubt about attending, they can let you know. You can also ask for check-ins when it comes to journey plans and updates to make sure they can make it on time.

Your next step is to liaise with an entertainment agency to make sure you know of someone relevant who also has availability on the day. That way, you have someone you can quickly reach out to if needed.

2. The problem: no one shows up

A poor turnout on the day of your event can be a real confidence blow, especially after all the hard work you’ve put in. “No shows” can be a common problem at online or free events, where the barrier to entry is low. As people haven’t had to make any kind of financial investment, they can forget or not feel motivated to attend. It’s generally safe to assume a 20% dropout rate when it comes to ticket sales, as there will always be a certain number of people who can’t make it. But how can you avoid a totally empty room (or a silent Zoom call)?

The solution: clear communication

For those smaller events where every attendee counts, it’s a good idea to send out reminder emails the week, day, and hour before your event is due to take place. This way, you can remind attendees of all the important details to avoid dropout. It also provides a way for them to let you know if they can’t make it, giving you a chance to sell more tickets or consult your back-up attendee list. You might also consider charging a small fee for tickets to encourage attendance and donate the proceeds to charity if you wish.

3. The problem: technology failure

Technology issues in event management: they happen to the best of us. Mid-way through their keynote speech, your speaker’s internet cuts out. Perhaps attendees are having trouble logging onto the chosen platform for your virtual event, or can’t access the interactive features you’ve put in place. At in-person events, a malfunctioning microphone is enough to put a hardened events professional into a spin. So how can you avoid these common technological problems?

The solution: test, test, and test again

The less you leave up to chance, the better. If you can, hire an AV professional who can make sure all necessary equipment is up to scratch before the big day. You can also trial everything yourself, making sure both you and your speakers are as familiar as possible with all the software that’s being used. It’s also a good idea to download any pre-recorded presentations or materials so that you’re not relying on internet speed to play them. Request hard copies from all of your participants in advance so you can check that they’re compatible with your chosen software.

When it comes to in-person events, make sure you test all of your equipment in the room itself. Is the room dark enough for the projection to be clear? Can microphones be heard even at the back of the room? Repeatedly testing will help you to eliminate those tricky technical glitches.

4. The problem: unexpected weather

The weather in the UK can be unpredictable at times. If you’re holding an outdoor event, rainy weather can put a (literal) dampener on your day.

The solution: prepare for the worst

While it’s good to hope for blue skies and sunshine, you should also have a plan in place just in case the opposite happens. Make sure you’ve got an indoor option on standby, whether that’s a nearby village hall or a marquee.

If this isn’t within your budget or you feel your event really should be outside, think about precautions you could take, such as choosing weather-proof furniture and decorations, offering disposable macs and umbrellas for attendees to borrow, and making sure anything that could blow away, like flyers or tickets, is secured. A little thought really does go a long way.

5. The problem: long queues

Waiting in long queues can create a sour impression of your event before it’s even started. So how can you make sure things keep moving like clockwork at your event while sticking to social distancing measures if needed?

The solution: keep track of ticket sales

You’ll be best placed to avoid queues and long waits if you’re aware of exactly how many people are coming to your event. Keep on top of ticket sales using Eventbrite to help avoid long queues at the entrance, and make sure you have enough toilets and food vendors for the number of people attending.

To help keep social distancing safely in place, you can implement measures like barriers, floor markings, and staff on hand to control queues.

Preparation is key

Wondering how to manage an event successfully? When it comes to event planning gone wrong, the root of the problem is usually poor preparation. So planning for every eventuality is crucial using the above list of event planning problems and solutions. Remember: you can never control every single possibility, but having a back-up plan will help you feel calmer, more prepared, and ready to tackle whatever your event day holds.

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