Even when you plan and have a solid strategy, things can go awry at your next trade show or conference. It might be something big like a power outage, speaker no-show, or minor tradeshow issues like catering blunders.
Mark R Moss, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at RA Consulting, views two types of chaos. One that people can manage and one that happens on-site and is not as foreseeable.
“My theory has been to manage, prepare, and therefore handle all the chaos that I can handle in advance,” Moss explains. “Take care of the details in the planning and setting up of events. Then, when you are on-site, and something goes sideways, you know that the other details are already aligned and running according to plan. That should make one freer to handle the things that come up.”
Having a plan in place will help you resolve issues quickly so the event can go smoothly. Here are some tips on how to deal with some of the unexpected issues that may arise.
Issue: A Speaker Cancels at the Last Minute
Solution: You could be or will have to deal with a speaker cancellation. While it is not the ideal circumstance, there are methods to manage the situation so that your event may go as planned.
The most crucial thing is to not freak out. Things getting canceled happen, and it is usually beyond your power. What matters is that you have an alternate plan set up so you can adjust on the fly.
If you can, look for a replacement speaker who can step in at the last minute. It is not always simple, but it may be feasible if you have a decent network of connections. If that is not an option, consider asking one of your other speakers to give a longer speech or have someone from your team fill in.
“Some already engaged speakers will also step up to the cancellation plate, says Ginger Johnson, Founder of Connecting Experiences. “AND I encourage everyone to ask. There are many ways to make it a win-win.”
Keep the audience in mind, no matter what. They attend your event to learn and be entertained, so try to ensure they have an enjoyable experience. You can overcome a speaker cancellation with some preparation and quick thinking.
Issue: Disruptions with AV and Technical Equipment
Solution: When arranging an event, be prepared to deal with any AV or technological difficulties that could crop up. This is one of the most typical concerns at trade shows and conferences.
Before the event, ensure all equipment is functioning and has been tested. Have backup equipment on hand, just in case. It’s also a good idea to have tech staff on call during the event to assist with troubleshooting and resolving any problems that arise.
If a problem arises, remain cool and analyze the situation. Is it possible to resolve it swiftly? Or do you require specialized assistance? Maintain contact with the attendees and inform them of any developments. Make suggestions such as switching rooms or giving out presentation handouts rather than depending on technology.
By preparing in advance and having a contingency plan, you can manage any AV or technical problems that may arise during your trade show presentation.
Issue: Venue Layout and Capacity
Solution: Regarding tradeshow and conference venues, issues can sometimes arise with the setup of breakout rooms and not having enough space. It is important to remain calm and approach the situation with a solution-oriented mindset.
First, communicate with the venue staff and clearly articulate the issue. They may have a simple solution or be able to quickly fix the issue.
If not, consider alternative solutions, such as combining multiple smaller rooms into one larger space to accommodate the group. Alternatively, divide the group into smaller groups and have them rotate between different breakout sessions or locations.
Remaining flexible and finding creative solutions can help alleviate stress and ensure that your event runs smoothly despite any hiccups with the venue.
It is also crucial to take preventative measures by thoroughly reviewing venue contracts and communicating any specific needs or requests before the event. This can help ensure that all parties are on the same page and minimize the likelihood of venue issues arising in the first place.
Issue: Bad Weather
Solution: You’ve been planning your event for months and have everything organized and ready to go. But then, a few days before the big day, you check the weather forecast and see there is a chance of severe weather. Whether a hurricane or a full-blown blizzard, dangerous weather can damper on even the best-laid plans.
Know Your Venue’s Policy
Before signing any contracts, ensure you understand your venue’s weather-related cancellations and postponement policy. Some venues will allow you to reschedule without penalty, while others will charge a fee. And in some cases, the decision to reschedule may be out of your hands entirely. So, it is essential to know what your options are.
Keep Your Attendees Informed
If severe weather will impact your event, make sure to keep your attendees informed. Send out updates via email or social media, so they know what to expect and can plan accordingly. By being upfront about the possibility of bad weather, you can avoid potential disappointment or frustration from your attendees.
According to Colin Tokosch, Senior Account Executive at 42 Chat, communication is one of the most controllable aspects of handling these situations, and he urges companies to get cell phone numbers.
“Surprisingly, many events don’t require cell phone numbers during registration – even if just for emergency purposes, Tokosch says. “With a 98% open rate, text messaging is the fastest and most effective communication channel.”
Don’t Forget About Safety
Inclement weather can be dangerous, so public safety should top your priority when severe weather hits your trade show. Keep walkways clear of ice and snow and identify any wet spots with caution tape or signs.
Samuel Scheller, Chief Executive Offers of Guardian Elite Medical Services, urges event professionals to prepare for medical emergencies.
Many trade shows fail to have on-site medical staff, explains Scheller. “This leads to delays in care for show attendees and can have a negative image of the show.”
It is easy to dwell on all the things that could have gone better at your event. But instead of beating yourself up over what went wrong, focus on what went right. Hopefully, these tips will help you be a pro at handling unexpected issues at your next conference or trade show! Just remember to stay calm, have a contingency plan in place, and try to enjoy yourself no matter what happens. With a little preparation and a positive attitude, you can handle anything that comes your way!