Whether it’s a small meeting or a multi-national conference, event planners know that last minute hiccups are part of the event planning deal. But minimising those road bumps is possible with some careful planning. Here are ten tips that will keep your event on the rails:
1.Plan for Option B
When booking keynote speakers or entertainers through an agency, include a clause that ensures a replacement speaker or entertainer will be provided if there’s a last minute cancellation (it’s a bit like having understudies).
Close to the event opening, the agency can provide you with a list of speakers and entertainers on their roster who can step in at the last minute.
2. What’s Risky?
Identify the areas that are most prone to last minute changes. Make sure these feature later in your project plan. For example, last minute attendee cancellations, weather related transport delays and late adjustments to the agenda can all require last minute notifications and updates.
If you have an online event app these updates can normally be delivered via real-time notfications or agenda edits.
3. Always Back-Up
Have back-up plans for each part of the programme that may be affected by last minute changes.
4. Keep Sponsors in the Loop
Include sponsors in key meetings. This is a tricky one as sponsors are busy and are generally happy to let event organisers do what they need to do. However, it’s worth including sponsors in selective meetings to ensure their buy-in.
Ask them to sign-off on content, the agenda, entertainment, and even the timing for catering service. It means everyone is on the same page throughout the planning stages. It also negates the risk of last minute changes having to be made because of a misunderstanding in vision or objective.
5. Re-work Your Agenda.
Building margin into your agenda, set-up, and logistics means last minute problems can be accommodated. Heavy traffic, poor weather and transport delays can hinder attendees’ arrival.
The margin allows you to move content to later time slots if necessary.
6. Fix a Cancellation Deadline
Last minute cancellations from corporate clients are inevitable. By getting all relevant parties to agree to a fixed cancellation notification date you will reduce those last minute scrambles.
7. Changes to Travel/Accommodation Plans?
A week before the event ask attendees to let you know ASAP if their travel plans or the length of their stay has changed.
Remind them to let event organisations know about any special meal requirements. That way you can make adjustments at a (slightly) more relaxed pace.
8. Early Arrivals
Where possible, bring the speakers in two nights before they are required. This means no last minute headaches when flights are delayed or the traffic is jammed.
9. Check-In to Press-On
Schedule the final checkpoint meetings with the entire team one week and then two days before the event.
This will help you identify any issues and develop a plan to manage them.
10. Troubleshooting Taskforce
Form a troubleshooting taskforce made up of members of the event planning team (specifically the planning sub-committees who have been involved throughout the event planning process).
The taskforce will be charged with identifying and dealing with last-minute emergencies. Make sure the last two days leading up to the event and during the event are completely clear for the team.
Their role should be to troubleshoot and problem solve. Ensure they are empowered to make quick and effective decisions.
Some last minute event changes are unavoidable. Taking deep breaths and staying calm are key to getting you through the sticky patches. Be honest with attendees about the changes, why they are necessary and what you are offering as an alternative.