You may have a famous speaker for your keynote address, a long attendee list, and an impressive venue. But in the days leading up to your event, it is always useful to make a contingency plan for a few possibly disastrous scenarios.

Assumptions are your greatest enemy. Most likely, you are dealing with a venue manager, a caterer (or Banquet Manager), an audio-visual provider, and maybe a band or temporary staffing agency. Following up with vendors and ensuring that any modifications you have made after submitting the original plan have been executed is truly important.

Here are a few faux pas you should be cognizant of, as they are more common than you would think:

  1. Running Afoul of Fire Safety Codes. If your venue is a hotel or meeting hall located within a big city, this will be an issue. Make sure that no signage or lighting is placed in the path of the emergency exits.
  2. Not Enough A/V Gear. Ask your provider in advance if they have additional inventory onsite. List how many items you need (radios, earpieces, charging stations, microphones, projectors, laptops, power cords, speakers and lights) and order spare elements. Be clear with your vendor that you may need to add last minute requests during the event.
  3. Not Considering the Full Floor Plan. Pillars, sconces and other fixtures may limit your seating chart or booth placement. For example, are there light fixtures protruding from walls that would prevent you from placing your sponsors’ banners where you wanted? Walk through the venue in the early planning stages and check your list of requirements against their resources.
  4. Making Attendees Navigate. Your invitation may clearly indicate the floor and ballroom name where a function is to happen, and attendees will still have trouble finding it. Make their lives easier. If it is impossible to have signage all the way from the parking lot to their seat, have staff members strategically placed along the way to direct the flow of traffic. Instruct your staff to know whether there is valet parking, coat check, the location of the nearest bathroom, how to easily reach your registration desk and the room where the next session is to be hosted.
  5. Assuming Vendors Know the Venue. If you’re using a rental company to set up a tent or furnish a large hall, or have a florist, caterer or an outside vendor bringing in any equipment, create schedules for loading and unloading. Ensure that the venue can provide a loading dock that is accessible during those times.
  6. Not Communicating With Staff. Divide your responsibilities early and establish the chain of command clearly. Do a thorough walk-through before the event, and touch base with individuals one-on-one throughout the event to ensure that they are confident in carrying out your vision.
  7. Booking an Inflexible Venue. Suppose the building next to the venue starts construction work the very day of your event? Can your venue move you to a quieter room? What if flights to your destination are canceled because of inclement weather? You need to have the option to either postpone the event or host it in a smaller hall, which won’t make the speaker feel as though they are presenting to an empty room.

For the novice event manager: hope is NOT a valid strategy.  Contact an event planning expert and make sure your event has the professional organization and management you need to ensure its success.

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