In the events world, not only do we need solid itineraries, including pre-production schedules, show run-sheets and solid load-out plans, but we also have to be willing to scrap those plans at a moment’s notice should the need arise.
Scrap the plans?? Is she crazy?!?
Live events are a tricky business. Because they encompass so many moving parts, things can go wrong at any moment. Deliveries may not make it on time, staff or crew members can get stuck in subways (yes, it’s often used as a lame excuse, but people do actually get stranded without cell phone access once in awhile), talent can become ill at the last minute, trucks can break down, electrical service can fail, snow storms and hurricanes can hit… the possibilities for calamity are endless. And that doesn’t even take into account human error. From miscommunications to miscalculations, we have infinite ways of making a mess of our own events.
And sometimes, things just don’t work out as planned. Maybe certain aspects of your program don’t go over as well as expected, or not as many people showed up as you had hoped.
The good news is, in addition to thoughtful preparation, flexibility and awareness can get you out of most jams. If we are to be truly capable of creating successful events and meetings, we must not only have a good plan, but also be willing to respond in the moment to last minute changes and unexpected circumstances. I think this need is more obvious when you’re troubleshooting major problems, but more nuanced situations also require equal attention.
For example, an event you are planning may have several components – perhaps a casual, unstructured beginning followed by a formal presentation. You may have certain timing in mind for the transition, but you may have to be flexible on starting your presentation based on how many people have arrived, or the general mood and energy of your crowd.
Other decisions, such as when to start or stop serving alcohol, or when it’s OK to let your speaker go on for longer than planned will often need to be made depending on the circumstances of the moment. Certain situations will allow for more flexibility than others, but it’s always a good idea to stay tuned to the current state of your guests, and be willing to go with an alternative plan when necessary.
Be prepared to make mistakes. Some things can’t be taught, and you will have to screw up on the job once in a while to really learn what not to do. In fact, sometimes these discoveries are so valuable, they help you achieve better results going forward than if everything had worked out exactly as you had planned. In fact, staying with those uncomfortable moments can be as important and rewarding as enjoying your successes.