Event Catastrophe or Opportunity?

It’s that dreaded moment. You have spent months and months planning the perfect event for your organization. You selected the meal, lined up the entertainment and planned every part of the event down to the minute. And then, without warning, the unthinkable happens… Severe weather strikes your outdoor event. The entertainment act doesn’t show up. What do you do???

Most people, given the circumstances, would freak out or freeze or both — especially if people paid to attend the event. But, even though you didn’t plan for what happened, you can still come out on top. Flexibility is key.

Recently, I team had the pleasure of attending Laughter is the Best Medicine, a fundraising event for His Hands Free Clinic. Well, despite wonderful planning by Executive Director Dawn Brouwers and her team, the fears of every event planner were realized. With 400-plus people in attendance, the improv troupe providing the evening’s entertainment were nowhere to be found. Traveling from the Quad Cities a little over 90 minutes away, their vehicle broke down. So, there we were, all 400-plus of us eating and enjoying conversation and Dawn came onto the stage. Without skipping a beat, she shared the unfortunate news and said we were going to have a slight change of plans. She quickly shifted gears and moved the second half of the program, sharing the story of His Hands and a request for donations to the middle. With grace and humor, she walked attendees through what was happening, “Well, you were supposed to laugh yourselves silly and then I was going to get up here and ask you all for donations,” she said. “But now we’re going to do things a little out of order…”

Dawn’s authenticity in the “Oh crap!” moment had the audience laughing even without the performers and resulted in donations and support of His Hands Free Clinic and their mission to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those without adequate resources. Eventually the comedy troupe arrived and the show went on. Had they not, I am pretty sure it would not have mattered (and the back-up plan, wherein the emcee for the evening – a local news anchor – realizing her dream of becoming a stand-up comic, would have been activated). Because, even though attendees may have been disappointed in not getting to see the show, they would have appreciated the authenticity of His Hands. The event was, at its core, about sharing the mission of His Hands with the community. And that mission was accomplished 100 percent! And when the improv troupe did eventually arrive, we did laugh ourselves silly just as Dawn had promised!

The next time you find yourself faced with an “Oh crap!” moment, follow these tips:

  • Don’t freak out! Really, there are worse things that could happen. Stay calm and everything else will follow.
  • Remember your attendees most likely came because they wanted to support you. They are also likely sympathetic to whatever is happening.
  • Plan ahead for the unthinkable if you are able. For example, have a rain date for an outside event or backup program for a banquet (or an emcee who aspires to be a stand-up comedian).
  • Apologize. If something doesn’t work out as planned, admit it, be transparent, and apologize. Attendees will appreciate your genuine concern.
  • Go with it. Once the unthinkable happens, if you just go with the flow and adjust in the most natural way, your event can still be flawless in the attendees’ eyes.
  • Be authentically you. The imperfect is perfect. Call it like it is, have a little self-deprecating fun and move forward. No one is expecting you to not be a little upended by plans going awry.
  • Turn your catastrophe into an opportunity. It’s that innate team mentality that we’re all in this together. You have a perfect opportunity to build relationships and memories in spite of or rather, because of, the unexpected.

An event catastrophe is almost always an opportunity. Use it! And if you need help navigating the waters of the unknown, let’s chat, Id love to help!

For more information about His Hands Ministry and how you can help them provide healthcare services to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of those without adequate resources visit their website, follow them on social or stop by their office for a tour.  

Picture of Anna Patty

Anna Patty

Anna is a Fundraising Consultant, Graphic/Web Designer, Marketing Strategist, Media Relations Professional and Event Planner. Anna holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Iowa with degrees in Journalism and Spanish and has spent over a decade creating strategic and cost-effective strategies for organizations looking to grow their missions. She and her husband, Sean, have four very energetic kids, two boys and two girls.

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