Plan B

Any experienced event planner will know that no matter how carefully organised schedules, suppliers and speakers are, sometimes things just don't go to plan. With so many factors contributing to success, it's the very nature of working in events.

But that's not to say when something doesn't go to plan that the event can't be successful. Our events coordinators across our 26 venues work closely with event organisers to plan for every eventuality, come rain or shine, so hopefully our expert checklist will help you or your event team create a Plan B.

Our Top 5 Plan B tips 

1.     Travel Delays

The trains are delayed or there's an accident on a major road leading to your venue. It's something that's out of even the best event planners' control, but it can be planned for. Keep an eye on travel delays as you're preparing for the day ahead and set up traffic alerts on your phone so you are aware of any potential delays that could hold your attendees up.

Keep your speakers up to date with any major delays and let them know how many of your delegates have registered so far. You may need to move your event back if a significant amount of attendees don't arrive on time. This time can then be made up throughout the day by cutting breaks down slightly. For those that have arrived on time, arrange for the catering team to ensure that food and drinks are available and allow networking to continue, or use one of your back up activities to keep attendees occupied.

2.     Speakers that rush through their words and those that keep on talking

Rehearsing will help keep everything to schedule on the day but, no matter how long a speaker has on the stage, things will always run differently on the day when adrenaline kicks in.  To account for this, build in some spare time between speakers, presentations or activities and always let your speakers know when they have five minutes to go, two minutes to go and when they're out of time (and let them know that's what you'll be doing so they keep an eye out for you). Have short Q&A exercises or small activities planned for these times, just in case things run like clockwork and you have some extra time to fill, or cut down an element of the event by the necessary amount of time to keep things to schedule; no-one wants to miss the train home.

 3.     Braving the elements

Remember, even if your event is in summer, grey skies and showers can never be ruled out.  So if your event is outdoors, or you have teambuilding exercises planned, like quad biking or archery, always plan a wet weather alternative in case of a downpour. The same goes for sunshine. If your delegates are sitting through a four-hour presentation while the sun is shining outside, you may want to offer refreshing drinks as well as tea and coffee or take your networking outside to keep everyone engaged.

 4.     Key speakers dropping out

Everything and everyone is in place, but you get a call or an email from your keynote speaker stating that they can no longer attend, and you're left with an hour to fill. There are several organisations that can provide a last minute speaker, or sometimes your cancelled speaker will be able to recommend someone who can step in. If you are a member of the National Speakers Association you can tap into the network of available speakers no matter where you are in the world.

If another speaker isn't an option, make the spare time a networking opportunity with a speed dating-style session, or create an 'expert panel' using a small group of esteemed attendees and use your MC as a moderator who can keep the conversations on topic. 

 5.     Major events

With more companies holding international meetings, and delegates travelling from around the world, it's more important than ever to be mindful of global events such as days of religious significance, major sporting events or international holidays, which could affect attendance or influence the event experience.  Being aware of these means planners can work with their venues and suppliers to ensure that their event caters for these events by providing time in the schedule or a space in the venue to mark major occasions.

Planners should also be prepared for unplanned events, such as major news breaking or threats to security, which could impact travel or the immediate safety of your attendees. In a recent roundtable discussion with our panel of Event Profs, we found that organisers were unclear about who is responsible for security procedures during events and didn't always proactively ask venues, travel providers and suppliers to see policies. Your venue will have these actions plans in place so as the event manager, it's your job to ensure that you ask and fully understand the information. 

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