By: Brian Maher, Vice President, Career Services
If you’ve ever planned an event you quickly learn that no event goes exactly as planned. There is always something that goes awry; sometimes big things, sometimes small things, but there’s always something.
I have planned hundreds of events from trade shows to college graduation ceremonies to honor society induction ceremonies to company holiday parties and I can assure you that something will go wrong. How you handle that something makes all the difference.
Like bitter or better you have two choices when that moment happens: Panic or Solve.
You can either choose to panic and throw in the towel and only exacerbate the situation, or you can resolve to deal with the situation. There are some key points to understand about this.
1. Ignorance is bliss. Most people don’t know what was supposed to happen in the first place! Only you and your team knows 100% exactly what was planned, when it was planned, and how it was planned. Ask yourself, would the audience know that there was to be a flag bearer or music at this point in time? If not, don’t fret over it. If you can solve it, solve it. If not, then don’t make a big deal out of it and move on.You only make matters worse when you voice frustration or tell others how it was supposed to go. Let them remain ignorant.
2. Use it to your advantage. A vendor at a trade show lost his entire booth en route due to a truck accident. They had secured a 20 x 20 booth space. That’s a lot of space at a trade show and now it was going to be nothing more than a big black hole. Panic? Not these guys. They went out to the local hardware store and purchased yellow emergency tape and cordoned off most of the area and stood inside the tape and sold their “product”. Ended up being the most popular “booth” of the show. They didn’t give up. They didn’t use it as an excuse. They turned it to their advantage. I’m still writing about it today and that was nearly 20 years ago.
One of my college roommates had the worst thunderstorm the day of his wedding. You would literally be soaked from head to toe just standing it in for two seconds. We all sat soaked to the bone in the reception hall worrying about him and his bride and how they were going to feel now that their reception was ruined when they come out with huge smiles on their faces and he starts throwing off his jacket and stuff and tells everyone to let loose seeing as we were all soaked anyways. Best… wedding… reception… EVER!
3. Take a moment. When you first get hit with the news that the young woman you secured to sing the National Anthem isn’t going to make it and it’s ten minutes to go time, take a moment. Catch your breath. Remain calm and gather your team and think on it for a second. Brains don’t work well when stressed and rushed. As the leader your team will reflect how you react. Is she truly the only person in this entire building that can and has sung the National Anthem in front of a large crowd before? Is it possible to download it and use a recording? Is it the end all be all? I attended an event when the host got up, informed everyone that the person they arranged to sing could not make it, and asked that the audience join him in singing the National Anthem. Still the best one I’ve been a part of to this day. We started off slow and quiet, but by the end we were belting it out and we stunk! But we had fun and you could feel the room fill with pride. It took courage for him to do that, but what did he have to lose? He led and we followed.
Plan as well as you can. Expect the unexpected. Have back-ups on top of back-ups. But when something still goes wrong, don’t Panic, Solve it!