The importance of contingency planning for events can’t be understated. You know the old story about the ant and the grasshopper. What happens when disaster strikes and you’re not ready? Well, disaster happens.
It’s more work up front, but trust us: You’ll want to cover your bases with a solid contingency plan. Event organisers are at the helm when mishaps occur. You do not want to be in the captain’s seat without a clue.
By following our guide below, you can start building your plan now. Use these tips as a loose event contingency plan example and branch out from there.
With the right preparation, a total event killer can turn into a manageable setback.
Get ready. Be the ant.
How to plan
Step one to a good event contingency plan? Identify threats. Figure out where you’re vulnerable and build your defences.
Health and safety are among the most important concerns for event organisers. Don’t get caught red-handed without a plan for medical emergencies. Try to have a few staff from your team trained up in basic first aid.
If your budget allows, you can even hire a company with knowledge of emergency medical response. It also doesn’t hurt to have AEDs (automatic external defibrillators) on hand. Make sure enough of your crew knows how to use them if the need arises.
Tip: You’re an event organiser, not a doctor! Still, you and your team should know the basics of first aid just in case.
Be ready for a range of large-scale emergencies. For example, if there were a fire, what would your attendees do? Could you instruct them once danger arose? Here are some questions to cover as you prepare:
- Are your stairwells ventilated?
- Are there emergency maps posted around the venue? Is your team aware of the venue layout?
- Do any of your staff speak multiple languages? (Communication is key during emergencies.)
- Do you have a go-to plan for terror? What happens when there is a bomb threat?
- Is there an emergency power source in case of serious weather issues?
- Does your venue have automated fire doors?
- How long would it take for authorities to respond? (Firefighters, police, and so on.)
- How will you keep main driveways and entrances unblocked?
Tip: Build a good contingency plan by figuring out whether a venue is safe for your next event.
Modern events use plenty of tech. What would you do if your ticket-reading system shut down? Or what if the sound system isn’t functioning and no one can hear your guest speaker?
AV troubleshooters are key members of your event team. It will be their responsibility to check the tech before and during the event.
If you have any key files—like videos or other media—use hard drives and USB sticks. Cloud drives are web-dependent, and you never know when connection issues may come up.
In case of equipment breakage, it’s also a good idea to have backups ready.
You know that comedian you got signed up for the event? Yeah, he cancelled at the last second. Make sure you’ve got a backup guest just in case.
Keeping a guest on call may cost you extra, but it’s way better than dishing out refunds when your main event bails on you.
Likewise, if some of your staff can’t make it, you’ll definitely want backup staff on call.
Tip: Deal with the dreaded cancellation using some of these suggestions.
If a large chunk of your attendees don’t show, this can be a serious event killer. Vendors won’t profit, and you won’t have as much footage to share online.
Worse yet, your attendees may feel like they made a mistake. They may assume the sparse attendance reflects low event quality.
Unfortunately, this can’t be fixed on the night. However, emailed reminders can help to limit no-shows. Additionally, charging for tickets creates a sense of investment: Your attendees are more likely to show up if they paid for it.
And of course, always give yourself plenty of advance time to sell tickets and market your event.
Tip: Avoid sparse attendance with some of these ticket-selling tips.
Food and drinks
Food has to be fresh. That means event fixings can’t be prepared long before the day of. Food can also end up spoiled, ruined, or simply inedible. If your caterer doesn’t follow through, you’ll be glad to have secured a backup.
It might even be a good idea to contract two separate caterers just in case. If you don’t need the extra food, the event staff gets a free lunch.
Tip: Some caterers like StandByChef offer last-minute catering services, providing food and drinks as late as 48 hours before the day of the event.
Yep, gatecrashers are a thing. Not to mention rowdy attendees and on-premise disputes that become more than casual disagreements.
Manning the door is a simple way to plan for security threats. Just a small team of uniformed security people can dissuade attendees from starting problems. Security is a major asset to any event contingency plan, so don’t skimp on the protection if there’s a chance you’ll need it.
Tip: Event security companies are usually the most effective way to keep everyone safe.
The chain of command
Even a team with an event contingency plan may not be equipped to truly handle things. There should be zero scrambling or arguing when an emergency happens.
A chain of command will clarify who is making the calls. Everyone on your team should be aware of the decision-making process. They should know what merits bumping up the response to the next level.
Individual responsibilities should be laid out for each person on the team. Quick, decisive action is what will save the day.
A basic contingency plan template
The actual plan should be outlined in a simple document. This way, you can share it with your event team and other personnel. Use the points below as a brief contingency plan example.
List the threat. You can add little touches like why it’s a threat and the consequences of this threat when unmanaged.
Example: “An unaddressed fire can quickly spread. It endangers the lives of everyone nearby and destroys expensive property.”
The best offence is a good defence. List how to take baseline safety precautions. Depending on the threat, this may include emergency drills, equipment examinations, or even just team plans for managing sick days.
Example: “Get familiar with the map of the building. Every staff member should know where the exits are and where the alarms are located. We’ll be practising a fire drill after today’s contingency plan meeting.”
Outline the gist of how to tackle the threat. What is the meat of the problem, and what is your philosophy behind subduing it?
Example: “Our priority is safety. The first thing to do when you notice a fire? Hit the alarm. Then immediately exit the building, staying low and avoiding smoke. Everyone must exit as soon as possible. Only call 911 once you have reached a safe area outside the building.”
Tip: Try creating a plan with a timeline for staff to follow in the event of an emergency.
What’s the plan again?
It’s better to be safe than sorry! Comment below about your own experiences dealing with emergencies.