Avoid event planning nightmares. 5 tactics for disaster prevention

14 Sep 2016 Events

Live events are ‘predictably unpredictable.' Which in short, means that if it can go wrong, then at some point it probably will.

All kinds of challenges, from minor niggles to full blown disasters are lurking around the corner to trip up even the most seasoned event management professional. And, few things are more cringe-worthy than a well-planned event that suddenly unravels in front of a venue full of delegates and VIPs.

No event planner wants to be at the sharp end when things go wrong; but without a crystal ball, how do you avoid the pitfalls and unforeseen problems that can derail your event without warning?

Here are five key tactics for problem solving and disaster prevention

1.Risk assess (i.e. assume you are the unluckiest person alive)

Just imagine that everything will go wrong; from a delegate tripping over the kerb in the car park and breaking their ankle, to the whole PA system failing half way through your VIP keynote speaker. Make a list of your day full of disasters, and think what you can do to make the chances of each one happening as small as it can be.

2. Contingency, contingency, contingency

Stuff happens. The question is, have you got a backup plan if it does? Don’t wait for a problem to arise and then try to figure out what to do about it. Have a plan in place to deal with the risks you've already identified and put contingencies in place.

3. Have the right resources in place

Problem-solving is more demanding than event planning, with effective disaster management hugely resource intensive. Make sure you have a backup in case you fall ill, or need more support to get your event back on track if something beyond your control affects your planning.

Apex account manager Rachel knows the value of resource all too well:

"I got a frantic call from one of our corporate clients whose event started in two days. Their in-house print bureau had let them down, and they needed the contents of a 170-page folder printing from individual Word documents for each of their 345 delegates. Nearly 60,000 prints collated and bound in 48 hrs!

"My first reaction was to reassure my client and tell them not to worry. My second was to call one of our key suppliers. I have a great business relationship with them and we worked out how it could be done. Every delegate got their folder at registration, and my client got a good night’s sleep".

4. Work with an experienced agency

An agency that really understands the events business will guide you through the pitfalls and help you to predict the unpredictable (because they've seen it all before). Just as importantly, they can also provide you with the contingencies and additional resource you need if things suddenly head south.

Paul, our Events Director recalls:

"We had just put the finishing touches to a major 400 delegate, three-day event in London. I was driving and heard about the 7/7 bombings on the radio. Our client quickly decided that the event had to be moved outside the M25 ring, and we had eight days to find an alternative venue, re-plan the whole event, and communicate the changes to the delegates. Fortunately, we had the experience, resource and capacity to meet the challenge and the event went ahead without a hitch."

5. Keep everyone informed

If you see something going off the rails, the temptation is to keep it to yourself and try to fix it, so no one knows there was ever a problem. This is fine for minor issues, but if you hit a crisis, the first thing to do is to make all your stakeholders aware. They need to know that you’re doing everything you can, while you need to manage their expectations (especially if there will be an impact on the budget).

If this all sounds a little bit scary, rest assured that help is at hand.

In fact, the right event management partner won’t just know where the pressure points are (and help shield you from these), they’ll also know what to do should the worst happen - with all the resources necessary to solve the problem for you.

At Apex, we may not be fortune tellers, but for over 25 years, we’ve been using our experience to create successful events, exhibitions, roadshows, awards, open days, and conferences. We reckon this makes us a better partner for your business than Madam Zora.


At Apex, we understand the immense effort that goes into preparing for events, and we work with you to help reach your goals and achieve a truly positive experience. If you’d like to find out more about how we can help make your events a success, contact us today to find out more, or give us a call today on + 44 (0)1625 429370 to discuss your requirements in more depth.

Paul Ashford

Paul Ashford is a founding director of Apex.co.uk and has over 25 years’ experience in live events and conferencing. He has a particular interest in creative communication and team dynamics and advises Apex’ clients on how to build teams and convey their key messages in visually stimulating and effective formats.

Apex Event Management and Exhibition Stands

Apex Event Management and Exhibition Stands