Nobody likes to be negative, but thinking about what can go wrong at your event and creating a contingency plan can be a very sensible step.

Having a predefined “Plan B” for when things don’t go as planned means everyone in your team knows how to respond and can rectify the situation as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Contingency planning is an important skill for event creators, and one you will get better at with each event you run – because only experience can show you the full range of possible mishaps. To help you, we’ve compiled 25 scenarios that most event managers will have encountered at one time or another.

Think about how each one might affect your event and how you would best deal with the situation. Then print out or copy the form below and fill it in with your top line course of action. Consider writing a more in-depth document with specific details, including who will be responsible for implementing the plan in each case.

What could go wrong?

  1. Speaker/entertainment/special guests does not turn up – people get sick, stuck in traffic or unavoidably delayed. Who will you have waiting in the wings as back up?
  2. Weather prevents or inhibits use of outdoor space – if you were banking on sunshine for an outside drinks reception and now it’s raining, where will you relocate your guests?
  3. Transportation problems – road closures, strike action, delays and cancellations are all possible. If guests are unable to get to you, can you provide alternative transportation?
  4. Event/session is oversubscribed – if you’re having to turn people away, how will you manage their disappointment? Can you expand capacity?
  5. Lower than expected turnout – you speaker is staring at a sea of empty seats. Can you drum up an audience or will you move to smaller event space?
  6. AV failure – if a presentation won’t play, microphone won’t work or you’re getting ear-splitting audio feedback, do you have alternative tech and expert help on hand?
  7. Internet goes down – what would happen if you couldn’t access the internet? Would you still be able to check in attendees, access presentations, run apps, take payments?
  8. Power cut – if a power cut occurs then everything goes down – internet, AV, lights, kitchens, electric doors. Do you need a generator?
  9. Heating/air con not working – attendees that are freezing cold or sweltering in the heat will not be happy. Do you have alternative heating/cooling options?
  10. Catering shortage – if more people turn up than planned or you’ve underestimated how much people will eat, how will you stop some attendees going hungry?
  11. Incorrect catering – imagine the vegan/halal/gluten free options you ordered don’t turn up, how will you cater for your guests with special dietary requirements?
  12. Registration delay – everybody arrives at once and now you’ve got a queue snaking round the block. How will you process everyone quickly and avoid complaints?
  13. Broken toilet – if a toilet gets blocked and you’re down to one loo for 200 people, can you redirect guests somewhere else? Do you have an emergency plumber on call?
  14. Disruptive guest – what happens if someone starts shouting out during your keynote, tries to ambush a VIP or a drunken brawl breaks out? Do you have security?
  15. Venue is suddenly unavailable – imagine you wake up to the news your venue has been flooded, will you have to cancel or can you carry off a last minute venue change?
  16. Speaker goes ‘off script’/offends – if your speaker says something unexpected, and not in a good way, will you step in? How will you retrieve the situation?
  17. Incorrect furniture/decor/equipment order – you asked for 25 tables and you only received 20. Will you have time to arrange for another delivery?
  18. Team members off sick – two members of staff have come down with the winter vomiting bug, who can step in and help in their place?
  19. Team members missing in action – your barman/cloakroom/check in staff have disappeared and people are waiting. How will you locate them and who can take over?
  20. Security risk – if an act of terrorism occurs or a fire breaks out in the venue, how will you move attendees to safety? (this should form part of your event health and safety plan.)
  21. Schedule overruns – if your opening keynote starts late and overruns by 20 minutes, what is the knock on effect? How will you claw back time to re-sync your schedule?
  22. Attendee confusion – if your signage isn’t as good as it could be and attendees keep getting lost, or they’re unclear on timings, how will you redirect them?
  23. Medical emergency – if someone falls ill or has an accident at your event, what provisions do you have in place to deal with it?
  24. Issue outside the venue – imagine there’s a roadblock or protest taking place preventing access to your venue, is there a back door attendees can use?
  25. Negative sentiment to your event – if there’s any controversy around your event it could end up in bad press, social media criticism or even a boycott – how will you handle it?

Conclusion

Although it seems like there’s a lot that can go wrong, most events go off without any major issues. However, being prepared with a contingency plan means you don’t have to panic if something does occur.

Event Contingency Plan

SCENARIO ACTION
Insert the key risks for your event and how these can be mitigated:
Absent speaker/entertainer  

 

Bad weather  

 

Transportation problems  

 

Event/session oversubscribed  

 

Low turnout  

 

AV failure  

 

Internet down  

 

Power cut  

 

Heating/air con failure  

 

Catering shortage  

 

Incorrect catering  

 

Registration delay  

 

Broken toilet  

 

Disruptive guest  

 

Venue unavailable  

 

Speaker goes off script  

 

Incorrect equipment order  

 

Sick team members  

 

AWOL staff  

 

Security risk  

 

Delay to schedule  

 

Attendee confusion  

 

Medical emergency  

 

Issues outside venue  

 

Negative sentiment  

 

 

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