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5 Ways to Avoid Event Mistakes and Disasters

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Hardly anything ever goes off without a hitch, the same goes for events. No matter how perfect, how attentive or how thorough everyone involved may be, something unforeseen can (and often will) go wrong. This doesn’t have to spell disaster, however. Some of the event professionals we have recently spoken to, have seen their share of glitches and difficulties but they have found a way to regain control and sort things out. Learn from some the industry’s experienced individuals and consider the best ways to prepare for and tackle the unforeseen.

Charlotte Clover-Lambert has planned and executed numerous events in the UK. Through experience, she has identified the elements that are most prone to go wrong and has developed systems and practices that decrease the likelihood of major disasters.

Some of the common elements which can cause trouble include:



Many event planners have had issues with double bookings and overbooked hotels. In advance of events with overnight guests, it is always a good idea to check alternative accommodation possibilities. Many areas have several hotels and B&Bs which would offer backup accommodation (or more budget friendly options) for event guests. Checking the availability of alternative hotels and accommodations is always a good idea.


AV equipment:

While many venues boast of spectacular in-house AV equipment it is simply not always the case. It is therefore a great idea to check out the AV equipment in advance, with enough time to contact alternative AV suppliers. Charlotte and many other event planners have a go-to contact for AV equipment who are able to move out at short notice and handle any in-house AV problems.

One of the most important bits of advice from Charlotte is to “have a list of back up contacts and don’t panic if something does go wrong!” Keeping calm is always the better way to handle a stressful situation. Often, when handled calmly, a critical situation may not even be apparent to event delegates.

Another experienced event planner, Erika Watson, from White Hot Events, has seen her share of unpredictability and has learnt some lessons along the way. Making events unique often entails using uncommon props and equipment. At a high-profile event where Erika had envisioned a rustic theme and needed long wooden tables, she was contacted only a few days before the event by the company supplying the tables and informed that they only had six (out of the thirty they needed). In an effort to ensure the event did not suffer and the theme/decorations remained true to her vision, Erika and her team brought, painted and assembled wood and parts to create the missing tables. The whole ordeal took a lot longer than originally anticipated but it made a huge difference in the set-up of the winery inspired event.

Erika could have considered alternative suppliers with different tables, but with an unwillingness to compromise on the authenticity of the event theme and the overall feel she was trying to create, and with a mission of “under-promising and over- delivering,” even the small details made a difference.

The lesson Erika took away from this was; “Just because something is extremely popular and abundantly available to me where I live doesn’t necessarily mean that is the case at my destination.” Never assume that an area will be exactly the same as another and always double check availability and quantities of all elements (including the small and decorative ones).

Checking availability also goes for the selection of the right speakers for events. This is one of the bigger hurdles in the planning process. It is also one of the elements that could result in one of the biggest event disasters. Silke Fleischer from EventPilot has seen her share of panic and frustration as a result of speakers cancelling an event appearance only a few days before (or the day of) an event. While this is any planner and client’s worst nightmare, it doesn’t have to ruin the event. Often a creative replacement (often local) will be the best way to go. If the speaker has been selected in collaboration with a speakers bureau, you will often find that the bureau will be happy to help find a last minute replacement in the form of a local speaker or other entertainment. This means you get an extra group of people to help you solve this issue. Undertaking event planning alone is never the best strategy. Let your team, bureaus and suppliers help you.

Working with others, such as a planning team, does pose some challenges especially when it comes to being prepared and staying organized. Event planners will know that many elements associated with events will change throughout the planning process. Keeping up with these changes is an essential part of successful event execution and with a big team, this becomes harder but all the more crucial. If you or any part of your team is unaware or forgetful of changed aspects, things can quickly derail. Make sure all changes that happen during the planning process are noted, preferably added to the software system you use for planning, and shared with everyone involved. This way everyone is kept up to date, know their roles, and will be best able to handle anything that comes up during the day of the event.

Don’t let unpredictable elements get the best of you at your next event. Take a look at these lessons learnt by experienced planners and take this into consideration during your planning process:


Event Disaster Prevention Lessons to take away:

  • Have a back-up supplier for some of the bigger event elements (such as accommodation and AV equipment)
  • Do not assume all areas and destinations offer the same goods and services. If you need something specific or unique, make sure to check with various vendors way ahead of time. If they do not have the specific candles, curtains, tables, or stage set-up you need, perhaps they have time to order it (or you have time to find alternative vendors)
  • Never panic. No event disaster is bad enough that you need to give up completely. If you have followed some of the precautions mentioned above, chances are you will be able to remedy the situation. Certain elements are, of course, out of your control, but most of them can be handled without too much drama or stress. This will also ensure that very few attendees even realize there was a problem.
  • Work with a bureau when booking a speaker. Then you have a whole army of people working hard to help you find a potential back-up or alternative if the keynote speaker doesn’t show up.
  • Make sure that changes which occur during the planning process are registered in some sort of central system or planning software and shared with everyone involved in the event planning. Being organized and centralized is key to keeping people informed and prepared.


Do you have additional tips for avoiding event disasters?

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