Tips for crisis management in event planning
It’s the biggest day in your calendar and the venue suffers a power cut; it snows; the trains are delayed and there’s a pile-up on the motorway. Your morning speakers don’t show up and half of your delegates can’t get through. Your wonderful, perfectly planned event is a disaster before it even starts… You wake up in a cold sweat: it was just that same nightmare that every event organiser has before a big event.
The events sector is reckoned to be worth some £11bn to the UK economy, making effective crisis management an integral part of any event. A crisis plan can cover everything from what to do when a speaker doesn’t show up, or a microphone cuts out, to a gas leak or fire evacuation.
Of course you need to have a basic emergency plan in place as standard but the more detailed and effective this is the more your business is protected. So what should go into a good crisis plan?
A clear chain of communication
Developing an effective crisis management plan is essential to ensuring everyone from delegates and speakers to venue support staff know exactly what to do in an emergency and are fully briefed on alternative arrangements or evacuation procedures. Whether it is a small workshop or a large annual conference, even the smallest disruption can impact the day and if not dealt with properly, can quickly escalate. Rumours can quickly spread amongst delegates that an event may be cancelled when the start has only been delayed, so you need a clear and confident process of delivering critical information right up to the moment everyone arrives.
Whilst the UK is thankfully spared the likes of tornadoes and earthquakes, overnight heavy snowfall in winter and broken air conditioning in summer can still threaten to cancel events at very short notice. Great communication through email, SMS, Twitter etc. is critical to quickly update delegates as events unfold. A time-critical plan covering responses from the first hour onwards ensures delegates and sponsors are kept in the loop with clear, concise reports. Whether it’s a faulty fire alarm or a bomb threat, frequent and clear communication will be appreciated and protects reputations. Social media can easily be leveraged to help with this.
Media response package
Communicating your plan to the media and keeping them updated is also critical. If you have invited journalists or photographers to the event, keep them informed. Do not treat them like second-class citizens just because they haven’t paid to be there. Keep them in the loop as much as anyone else and be helpful. This will help in deflecting any negative focus away from the event.
Proper insurance cover can mitigate some of the risk but reputations are not so easily recovered and are far more precious, and harder to mend. According to Hiscox some 45% of event organisers do not carry specific insurance although 40% have been forced to cancel events. Usually venues expect a public liability limit of indemnity of a minimum of £2m in any one occurrence, so make sure your insurance covers all of your needs.
Contingency plans and simulation
Stopping a small setback from becoming more serious is a critical component of crisis planning. Every time an event experiences difficulties, if a delegate is taken sick or a fire alarm disrupts the day etc. event planners need to add to their individual contingency plans and venue inspection checklists. Crisis simulation can range from running through likely and dramatic scenarios to actually training client employees before the event on how to handle everything from a heart attack to a gun threat.
Great planning mitigates against a damaged reputation, not only to the event itself but to the venue, the host, your business, the event’s sponsors, local partners and even subcontractors. Take the time to create a great crisis management plan and filter it down to everyone involved.
If you want to find out more, or learn more about how Eventsforce can help solve your event headaches please call us on (720) 248-7721 or contact one of the team.