Event planners are well-prepared to expect the unexpected. But after the past two years of numerous twists and turns and starts and stops, it’s time to reconsider what defines a contingency plan.
Remember, a contingency plan is an assessment of any and all possible scenarios that could arise at your event and solutions to mitigate those concerns should they arise.
Below, we’ve listed ten key elements when creating an event contingency plan. Add these guidelines to your playbook to navigate uncertainty and plan events for the unexpected in 2022 and beyond.
1. Define a contingency plan that makes sense.
Your backup plan doesn’t mean your event needs to be canceled or postponed if the in-person gathering can’t happen.
Plan for a fully virtual option if the F2F event can no longer happen as planned. Keep in mind it is hard to switch to 100% virtual without alternative plans already in place – especially if the change happens last minute.
An all-in-one audience engagement platform like ConnexMe that can be used across in-person, virtual or hybrid events provides flexibility and allows you to adapt if anything unexpected occurs.
2. Create the contingency team.
Early on, identify the core group of team members who need to be aware of and implement the contingency plan if needed.
Clearly define who is responsible for each element. For example, you’ll want your team to include tech gurus, colleagues who communicate changes with stakeholders – attendees, sponsors, suppliers, and internal team members – and a customer support person to field incoming questions. You’ll also want a dedicated liaison focused on overseeing the activation of all logistics that make up the backup plan.
3. Keep your budget flexible.
Read all contracts carefully, ensuring they provide as much flexibility as possible. Be transparent with your suppliers about payment terms too.
Even if you need to make a deposit or pre-pay the total amount, ask about options for funds to be received back as credit if the event needs to be canceled or downsized.
4. Set aside an emergency fund.
With a lot of unexpected situations that can come up during event planning, it helps to have an emergency fund set aside.
Suppose unforeseen expenses occur, like needing to fly in a replacement speaker or adding more technology to support a 100% virtual option. In that case, a backup financial reserve eases the stress of a last-minute switch.
5. Look for cost-sharing opportunities.
Ask your venue or CVBs about other events or programs happening at the same time or before/after yours. If it makes sense, pitch them about sharing AV or buildout costs – which can provide flexibility to both of you in case something changes.
6. Determine how updates will be shared.
If any change occurs, the key is to over-communicate with everyone, from attendees to speakers to sponsors and suppliers.
Since changes can happen last minute, but time is of the essence to get the news out, draft language for email announcements, social media posts, or call scripts so the communication plan can be activated quickly – and all team members deliver the same message.
And if the event is canceled or rescheduled, don’t forget to have details of your terms and conditions and refund policies at the ready.
7. Source backup vendors.
With supply shortages and staffing issues, your vendors, like everyone else, could face unexpected challenges. From the initial booking to contract signing, keep everything in written form. Respond quickly to requests to keep them on track, and in return, ask them to provide a minimum of 48-hour notice if there is a change in the ability to deliver the promised services.
It’s also an excellent time to revisit your vendor contact list and ensure it’s up-to-date. If there are signs that a current vendor may not be able to deliver, start contacting alternative vendor sources rather than waiting until the last minute.
8. Make a security plan.
Most events don’t need high-level security, but there are still instances where an effective emergency response is necessary. For example, what if an uninvited guest tries to crash, someone has too much to drink, or there is an unexpected incident on-site like a physical altercation or a large crowd that gets out of hand?
To deal with potential emergencies, establish the escalation rules, including when you’ll bring onsite security into the situation or, if needed, contact local law enforcement in case something happens.
Don’t forget to consider other variations that may disrupt your events, such as severe weather, staff drop-outs, or abrupt cancellation of entertainment.
Lastly, share the plan with your team and make sure everyone knows what to do in the event of emergencies.
9. Prep for presenter changes.
Event speakers may get sick or have emergencies. Having tech backup plans can allow them to speak virtually and save you from setbacks. In addition, you can ask speakers for alternative replacement recommendations if they can no longer participate.
Another option is to pre-record speaker sessions, which is a good backup in case of a tech issue with a virtual session or as a precaution against speakers who can no longer be present in person.
Emergencies aside, consider a contractual clause with a deadline for speakers to give you a reasonable cancellation notice.
10. Test all tech in advance.
Of course, full rehearsals have always been necessary for any event. And while many speakers may feel they’ve presented so many times they could do it in their sleep, insist on a pre-event tech check – whether for a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event.
It never hurts to be overprepared. Going through each element of your event and identifying what could possibly go wrong at every stage provides reassurance for you, your attendees, and your stakeholders that the event will be able to run as planned – no matter what may happen.