Do you have a plan B?

Organising an event can be a real adrenaline hit. You’re like a ringmaster bringing the whole show together. You need people skills, time management skills, an eye for detail and bucketloads of enthusiasm. Most importantly, you need a contingency plan. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, unexpected things will happen.

Venue cancellation

It’s the day before the event and you find out the room you’ve booked is flooded. Either your stress levels go through the roof or you calmly consult your contingency plan. When you book a venue, find out their terms and cancellation policy and what options are available if circumstances change. Does the venue operator have another room or venue that can be used at short notice? In addition, canvass other venues nearby and find out their availability. Using online ticketing, even for free events, ensures that a group email can be easily sent to all registered guests about a change of venue.


As the organisers of Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival know, it can be blazingly hot one day and pouring with rain the next. If the event is outside then you need to be prepared to move a marquee or an entire event inside. If this is not possible, then guests need to be notified that the event is postponed or cancelled. Ticketed events usually outline the cancellation and refund policy.

If you are organising an indoor event, don’t forget climate control. You don’t want guests feeling too hot or too cold. This may be the responsibility of the venue manager. Otherwise, locate the temperature control panel and know how to operate it.


The event might start at 9am or 6pm, but if there are public transport problems or a major accident on one of the freeways, then people will be late. Staying calm is your first strategy. You may be able to rearrange the program to delay the keynote speaker until most people arrive. If you know in advance about closed roads, roadworks or public transport diversions, let guests know the night before and suggest alternative routes or transport.

Keynote speaker cancels

It can be devastating when your keynote speaker suddenly cancels, but this often happens. Planes get delayed, family emergencies arise, and people become ill. When you book your keynote speaker, book a substitute one as well. You will need to compensate them if their services aren’t required, but this cost is insignificant compared to having no speaker at all. Find out in advance if the keynote speaker has any material, such as a recording or PowerPoint, that could be used in their absence. Let guests know as soon as possible about any changes in the program and have a refunds policy in place to avoid disgruntlement.

No one shows up

It’s easy to be fixated on logistics and neglect marketing. But there’s no point in planning an amazing event, if people don’t know about it. Start marketing and advertising early in the piece. Even if your event is free, make it a ticketed event. This way you can monitor numbers and ramp up the publicity if numbers are low a week or so before the event. Consider switching to a smaller venue if the numbers remain low. If it’s a free event, use incentives such as free coffee, door prizes or goodie bags to entice people.

Too many people show up

At least you know your marketing worked! The best way to avoid this scenario is to use a ticketing system. The number of tickets issued can match the capacity of the venue and if there’s high demand, a waiting list can be set up. If you are expecting more than 100 people, employ some form of security to keep people calm and in line if there’s a queue. Hire extra staff to make sure the ticket check point is run as efficiently as possible.

Technology failure

The keynote speaker steps up to the podium, starts to speak and the microphone drops out, then the PowerPoint presentation doesn’t work. At this point you may feel like screaming or crying, but it all comes down to preparation. Arrive early at the venue and test all the equipment. Have plenty of connectors and adaptors for computers, plus extension cords and batteries. Even if a venue has WiFi, ask your speakers to have offline assets as well. Consider hiring a technician to take care of all your AV needs.

A speaker goes rogue

Sometimes people get up in front of a crowd and something snaps, they start expressing their political views, tell a tasteless joke or swear for the sake of a few laughs. It might all happen so fast the speaker gets back on track before you need to intervene, but always be prepared to cut the mic and apologise to the audience. Discuss what’s expected with your speaker or speakers before the event. You can have guidelines about what is off-limits. Get a copy of their presentation before the event and contact them if you have concerns.


In conclusion, remember to stay calm, be flexible and fix a problem as soon as you can. Test everything and always have a contingency plan.


Author: Alexandra Giudice
Do you want to get stuff done in your business? Then you need to speak to me. I’m likely your first port of call at FC and I’ll be honest, I’m yet to take a call from a business I haven’t been able to help. I’ll work with you on projects like executive recruitment and organisational reviews and above all, I’ll just make sure that we get stuff done together.