Having a Plan B for business meetings and events has always been important. Yet planning for the unknown has become even more essential as pandemic-related event guidelines continue to evolve. The best way to ensure your event’s success during uncertain times is to build out a comprehensive event contingency plan.
The following five tips can help not only with creating a contingency plan that works, but also minimizing the impact of a worst-case scenario.
1. Proactively plan your response
Building out an event contingency plan involves taking a proactive approach. With all of your event details in mind, think through the possible problems that could arise:
What if the keynote speaker suddenly can’t attend?
An important speaker flying into town on the morning of the event could experience a flight delay or cancellation. Have a backup presenter ready, or offer a virtual broadcast with hybrid event technology solutions.
What if the venue is unavailable due to bad weather?
A storm system could interfere with your outdoor reception. Create a plan B with an indoor space at the same site or another location.
What if a vendor cancels?
Any vendor made up of a small team may end up canceling at the last minute due to an illness or other unforeseeable conflict. Get backup contacts for any vendors that would break the flow of the event if they can’t provide their services.
What if your events fall behind schedule?
Concurrent sessions could run over time, having a knock-on effect to the rest of the itinerary. Add buffers into your schedule and prepare speakers to abbreviate their sessions if needed.
Unfortunately, there’s an infinite number of possibilities, so you can’t plan for everything. However, you should identify the most significant problems or possibilities — then create a response plan for each one. Write the key action items down and make your documentation accessible so that anyone involved in the planning or execution process can pivot as needed.
2. Carefully evaluate vendor contracts
When you’re organizing an event, scrutinizing vendor contracts is an important way to protect yourself and your financial investment. Make sure you know what the consequences would be if you or the vendor experiences an unexpected change.
If you need to cancel or postpone your event, will you get some of your money back, or will you incur additional fees? Does your event insurance offer suitable coverage for all of the possible incidents you might face? Reading the fine print to answer questions like these can prepare you in the event that something does need to change.
3. Think local
The fewer variables you introduce into your event plan, the less potential there is to go wrong. Localizing your event or meeting removes complexities like long-distance travel, which can help ensure your guests and attendees can make it in person. A minor traffic jam across town will not be nearly as detrimental to your event’s success as a coastal hurricane that threatens to prevent half of your attendees from flying in.
Taking a local approach to event planning also makes adapting easier. After all, if a local vendor backs out for any reason, it’s easier to make last-minute adjustments and when you’re around the corner and you have a local network to turn to. You can even include backup vendor contact information in your contingency plan and speak with those vendors ahead of time to save yourself from having to conduct research when you need a quick solution.
4. Budget for the unexpected
When building out your event budget, set aside some funds for emergencies and last-minute adjustments.
If you end up calling in a backup vendor, they will likely charge a higher rate than what you initially planned. Should you end up with more attendees than boxed lunches, someone will need to run out and buy more food. If your projector isn’t compatible with your guest presenter’s laptop, you will need some extra cash available to purchase the right type of adapter.
While you don’t need to go overboard with contingency budgeting, it’s important that you have the resources available to patch up any issues and keep things running smoothly.
5. Take a hybrid approach
In the last few years, with so much uncertainty around in-person gatherings, travel, business stability and more, hybrid events have become invaluable resources. When you plan your event to have both an in-person and online component, there may be more considerations to plan for, but you can pretty safely say your event will be able to happen, one way or another.
If you format your event as a hybrid one from the start, you will already have the structure in place if you need to pivot to an all-online format. Plus, even if the in-person portion of your event still happens, any guests who become unable to attend in person won’t be left out. This can be a comforting option for attendees who are uncertain about traveling or safely gathering in groups — plus it means you can reach people who would rather not go to an in-person event anyway.
Protecting your events and meetings from the unknown can be a challenge. When you partner with JTB USA Meetings & Events, we can bring our years of expertise to the table, helping point out possible vulnerabilities and risks as well as building out a working contingency plan with reliable solutions. Connect with us to learn more.