I was reminded yesterday of how the tiniest mistake can cause a great deal of trouble in life as well as in business and especially in event planning.
After a lovely morning with a friend – spent drinking lots of tea and watching our various offspring play – I decided it was time to go home. I strapped my youngest son into his car seat at which point he grabbed my keys and started jingling them around. Thinking I’d get them from him when I came back with my eldest son, I duly closed the door.
I expect the forward-thinking amongst you can already see what was going to happen next, but I just hadn’t foreseen the chain of events. I prised my eldest away from the train track he was playing with, got him into his shoes and off we went to the car. I went to open the car door and….oh. It was locked. My youngest had managed to click the central locking button and was now locked in.
He must have sensed my rising panic as he went from 0 to 60 on the baby-in-distress scale. At which point we went through the rigmarole of trying to get him to repeat his clever button clicking with the other button.
Of course, the problem is that 18 month olds are just that bit too young for coaxing and bribery, those oh-so-useful tools of parenthood. We tried the exaggerated miming of button pressing and nearly succeeded until gravity took over and he dropped them. Game over.
An hour later, my knight in shining armour arrived with a spare key. No harm done.
But I couldn’t help but think: if I’d just stopped and thought the consequences through for a second, I would not have made such an error.
Taking my frazzled mum-of-two hat off for a moment, when it comes to running conferences and events, the logistics involved in getting everything to run smoothly involves a whole multitude of elements that could go wrong. So many behind-the-scene factors have to come together to make that event a success, and the tiniest error could potentially ruin people’s perception of that conference and ultimately damage your reputation.
Here are a few tips to try to avoid that happening:
The way I make sure I have everything covered is to make lists under headings (AV, speakers, delegates, refreshments, cloakroom, signage etc) , so that when I am getting everything in place for an event, I can tick them off as I go. It sounds obvious, but it works and has saved me in many situations.
Think of a contingency
No matter how thorough your list, some things will always remain beyond your control. For some of the more major potential issues, it might be worth conceiving a quick contingency plan in advance.
I once put on a conference in Warsaw where a minister who was due to speak first thing dropped out that very morning. Luckily I’d had an inkling that that might happen from a Polish contact of mine, and managed to prime the chair to give a longer introduction to cover the gap if it did indeed happen.
Certainly not ideal, but I like to think the smooth professionalism in the face of such a glitch reflected well on our organising company…whilst it was the minister who looked bad for his lack of consideration.
Modern day glitches
OK, so I can’t blame locking my child in the car on modern technology – central locking has been around a long time after all. However there are definitely more outcomes to think about these days.
My colleague will attest to this; when giving a presentation at an event recently, his audience had a bit of a surprise when his mum popped up on the big screen calling via Facetime. He’d simply not considered that if his phone was switched off, she would pop through to his laptop.
Being prepared in 2013 means thinking through things that may never have existed a few years ago.
If all goes wrong, don’t panic
Screaming trapped toddlers aside, there is no need to panic if something does go wrong. If you remain unflappable you will not only look professional, but will also be able to think much more clearly and hopefully come up with a solution.
My colleague who’s mum dialled in during his presentation kept his cool, let her give a little wave to the audience and she ended up being the star of the show! People understand that accidents can happen.
With just a little foresight and clear thinking you can hopefully avoid errors, and if and when they do happen, deal with them swiftly and professionally.
But then hind sight is a wonderful thing.