In my last article, ‘5 Tips for Reducing Stress before an Event,’ I spoke of the importance of having a backup plan to prepare for the worst possible outcomes when it comes to organising events.

Sadly, there is no bulletproof method, and even the best and most experienced event organisers fail at times.

After speaking to Lianne Robertson, joint Managing Director of Surviving Actors alongside Felicity Jackson, I realised that I wasn’t alone.

Said Lianne: “Less then 24 hours before the event there was a problem with the venue and we had to find a new venue within budget that was suitable for the event, notify every company, every guest speaker and every actor planning to attend. It was absolute mayhem but with forward planning and a bit of luck we turned it around.”

I’ve had similar experiences myself.

Towards the back of 2013, I began to organise a large fashion event and managed to secure a deal with Wowcher, where 400 tickets would go out on sale and the event would run for two days in a row. The day before the contract was due to be signed, the venue pulled out. I then looked frantically for a new venue and just couldn’t find one with the right price range, location and facilities.

I’d spent nearly three months organising the event where I’d arranged models, make up artists, a catwalk and so on. I decided to take a hit on it and call it a day, but a few weeks later I stumbled across the perfect venue by accident and gave it another go. The amazing thing is I’d already built up an infrastructure so it was simply a case of making a few phone calls.

This time, I teamed up with Fashion United, the international B2B website, had celebrity Noelle Reno speak at the event and people travelled across the globe to come to it. I’d turned what was previously a complete disaster into one of the proudest and biggest achievements of my life.

So what did I learn? And how can you recover from event failures?

1. Avoid being a control freak

Us event organisers tend to be control freaks, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be obsessive about every aspect of your event, but you have to accept that you can’t control everything and everyone, so learn to let it go. People do change their minds and strategies don’t always work, so emotionally distance yourself from that mind-set and look at everything objectively instead.

2. Have a backup plan

Once you’ve let go of your ‘control freak’ mentality, you’ll be able to start planning for the worst case scenarios. I advise finding backup venues, speakers and marketing options as these tend to be the places where things go wrong most often, so get them covered.

This way you won’t need to be a control freak any more! If you’re relying on funding or sponsors, have backups for these too.

3. Always use contracts

When I first started my company, I didn’t use contracts because I didn’t know where to start with it all. Unfortunately I’ve learned that on occasion people will sting you if they know they’re not legally obligated to follow through. Trial and error is good for this. After a few events, you’ll begin to work out how you can get stung and what guarantees you need in place, so you can start drawing up basic contracts.

I use contracts for every aspect of my event, from public speakers, venues, marketing and advertising partners, to sponsors. Once you’ve done this, you’ll convey a more professional approach and people will take you more seriously, resulting in a more successful event and business long term.

4. Learn from mistakes

The great thing about events is you get to witness your product and customer experience right in front of your eyes, and you’ll know when something is wrong. Trust your instincts and send out surveys after to help you learn when your mistakes were so you can improve and fix them for your next event.

5. Failure doesn’t mean failure

Sometimes, your event won’t work out, but it’s the contacts you make that are more valuable than anything else, as I discovered. It was my contacts and my database that helped me to have a second go at my fashion event and turn it into a big success. You can do the same too if you make an effort to track and save all of your information.


Sadly, there is no guarantee your event will succeed, but follow these simple tips and you can turn your disasters into a success story like I did.

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