Event crisis management is maybe the least glamorous thing we need to deal with as event planners. But we have to, as events are enormous collections of aspects just waiting for that little signal to go wrong. The larger and more complex the event, the higher the risks, and the more thorough our efforts must me in order to get ready to face them.
Types of risks
The main types of risks we face when planning an event could be categorized as below:
- Malfunctions of technology (a cable melting, an electric short circuit)
- Human errors (information not being communicated on time, or being communicated inexactly)
- Management issues (not calculating enough funds for a certain activity)
- Internal risks within our company (an employee not succeeding in getting a specific permit)
- External violence (revolt, terrorism, war)
- Acts of God (natural calamities)
The crisis management plan
It surely sounds like a gloomy scenario. But since we’re planners, when it comes to event crisis management, we can do what we know best, which is, plan, and get ourselves and our guests covered. In this case, for each event, you need to develop a crisis management plan, consisting of:
- Maps and information about the venue (think floor plans, emergency exits, extinguishers well marked)
- A list of key staff, with contacts (venue management, all vendors, emergency service providers)
- Emergency procedures (such as an evacuation plan)
- Any other useful documents and forms
You can reduce a lot of the technological, human, management and venue related risks in the decision phase by choosing your vendors wisely. For example, the type of venue that would best handle your amount of guests, and that is best equipped to face emergencies. Or a reputable audio/video/lighting equipment provider, who would be less likely to set the concert hall on fire.
How to reduce risks
Another thing you need to do in order to reduce risks is to get an insurance for your event. It does increase the cost of the event, but the increase is insignificant if you think at how high the costs would be, should you face a disaster.
Next, make sure you sign actual contracts with all your vendors, and also with any performing artists/speakers. Maybe you still believe in sealing deals with a hand shake, but having to cancel an event for a no-show is a crisis, as well, and it’s always better to have penalties settled.
Last but not least, an important step in event crisis management is to have the right staff in place for security needs and medical needs. The first thing on your mind, should anything bad happen, is to have everyone safe and sound.
Event crisis communication
Now that risk prevention dealt with, and you have an action plan, there’s one more element to talk about: event crisis communication. So the bad thing that was not supposed to happen, happened. There will be economic and/or even human consequences. But having a communication plan in place is the best way to prevent an episode of crisis turning into a permanent disaster.
As far as internal communication is concerned, its role is covered by the list of contacts in the crisis management plan, and one more aspect needing mention, is that an internal communication flow must be established in advance, to make sure all the parties are immediately informed of the emergency.
For the external communication, a PR or marketer with media training supposedly already is part of your event planning team, especially when we’re talking large scale events. How you will communicate the crisis to the outside world, depends of the very nature of the crisis itself, but some essential guidelines should be respected:
- Have the story of what happened immediately ready. The media will want a story and it’s better to have it from you, the official source, rather than from rumors that would do nothing but denaturate what really happened.
- Update the story as the effects of the crisis unfold. This way the public will rest assured that no one is “running away”
- Assume responsibility no matter how bad the situation is. Transparency is key, and there is no point in trying to hide the truth or details of it.
- Respond to questions and comments, not only from the press, but also on all our social media outlets
All in all, event crisis management may be an unexciting issue to deal with, but it’s what sets a professional event planner apart from amateurs. Have you ever dealt with crisis situations during the events you organized? If yes, how did you manage them? Let us know!