Forgive the religious (and gender specific) overtones of the Four Horsemen, but challenges at events – from small to apocalyptic – are as much a reality as they can be epic. From the simplest of misbehavior, to the more significant of world changing events, it is the overcoming of a wide variety of challenge that the old event professionals talk about over beers, usually at an airport bar somewhere between flights.
Fortunately there are five counter forces that you can, and should, have at your disposal for moments such as these. These are:
- Human Relations
- Public Relations
These day to day mild mannered teams can yield amazing power separately or together. For instance, when a highly contagious (but very common) disease broke out at one event, the PR and communications elements were critical for the media as well as all participants including crew, attendees, and others. Great advice from the PR team countered the initial “instinctive” reaction allowing for more thought to go into other fronts including extended hotels for those effected (travel), and sourcing replacement crew for the balance of the event (HR).
At one event, a hired professional moderator made an off the cuff comment that offended members of the audience, including an employee of the host company. A thirty-minute call later and all details from finding a replacement moderator, to contractual, to press management, to employee relations, to booking the moderators flight home were handled. In some organizations, it could take thirty minutes just to reach the right parties, and bring them up to speed on the context.
To get the most out of these powerful five it’s advisable to:
- Know your contacts: Ensure before going on site that you have an assigned contact from each team who is available and willing to take you calls at any time.
- Make sure they can make decisions: Given the possible time pressure associated with the decisions, make sure the contacts are empowered to make a decision, accept/reject your recommendations, and action it. Nothing is more frustrating and potentially harmful than “let me escalate this” while Rome is burning.
- Prep them and yourself: Ensure that you have prepped these teams on the scope and scale of the event, audience make up, objectives, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out: Take the time to reach out to the full group, even if you don’t believe that they are all needed. It’s better to have them all know what is happening than to catch up later.
- TALK, don’t email: Get on a call (or Skype) together. There are often interlacing issues, interdependent decisions, and the value of active brainstorming that an email thread can’t recreate.
As the old saying goes “plan for the worse, hope for the best”. With these five areas of expertise at your fingertips, you’ve got a leg up on the planning side of things.