They say in show business that anything that can go wrong – will go wrong. Ask any event planner and they will tell you the same can be said for organizing events. Sometimes, all the planning in the world cannot prepare you for the extenuating circumstances that pop up at your conferences, trade shows or seminars. What’s most important to remember is that there is only so much you can do, before the fact – so if you feel you’ve dotted your i’s and crossed your t’s, just know – you’ve done your due diligence. When those unexpected things do happen, it’s important to realize that panicking isn’t going to help your cause at all. Below are some ways to keep calm during event disasters.
Did you know? Event planning is consistently in the top ten for the most stressful jobs.
Make sure you remember this list to help you through your next event crisis.
1. Refer to your checklist
You are in the business of planning, and it would be surprising to hear you don’t have some sort of planning, prep or checklist. Taking a moment to refer to it will help you keep calm during event disasters because it likely includes emergency procedures, your list of speakers, important contacts, contingency plan and anything else you planned for, depending on the type of event crisis currently happening. With all the hustle and bustle of planning and putting on your event, you may be forgetting that you already planned for this specific type of issue – and the solution may literally be on paper in front of you. If it’s not, reading the list will help your brain prioritize and think more clearly about what to do next.
Speaking of show biz, if you’ve ever taken a theatre or film class, you are likely familiar with the art of improvisation. If you’re not, it means making it up as you go along, or thinking on your feet. If this sound scary to you, consider this: who knows more about the event than you? If you planned it, then likely, no one. Need a new speaker for a last minute drop out? Think of your other vendors, sponsors or attendees and go create a new relationship. Hear the fire alarm? You know where the fire escapes are, you know where the first aid tent is, and you know where water fountains are – who better to think on the spot than you? Your meticulous planning and your support team will be able to help you think on the spot, when time is of the essence and you need to keep calm during event disasters.
It seems cliché to mention breathing on a list but it’s surprising how often we forget to do it during times of extreme stress. We tend to hold our breaths, when we should be breathing to regulate our heart rate. You know you’ve done your best, and some things are out of your control; why put extra stress on your body as it struggles for air? Focusing on your breathing also gives you something to think about other than the impending disaster in front of you. Let’s get scientific for a minute: oxygen relaxes your brain. When you are trying to keep calm during event disasters, in through your nose, and out through your mouth.
4. Follow protocol
Whether the venue you are holding your event at has a rule-book, or you’ve established them for your event all on your own, chances are, there’s a protocol. You’ve familiarized your surroundings, you’ve arrived early at the venue, and you have had the event execution meeting. When you have to keep calm during event disasters, focus on recommended procedures – and it’ll help prevent you from overthinking and freaking out.
5. Keep busy
Picture this: your event is going as planned; the guests are enjoying themselves, the audio is working fine, all the vendors are set up and engaging with attendees… then suddenly, you hear a crash and a scream. First, remember that you don’t know what happened yet and sometimes people over exaggerate over the smallest inconveniences. Don’t start to worry until you know for sure there is something to worry about. Once you know, rather than running like a chicken and shrieking like a banshee, walk around; this will give your body something to do – exercising helps blood flow and concentration; drink water – prevents you from talking too much and looking stressed, it keeps you hydrated and will prevent anxiety-induced dry mouth; and if you’re really struggling, think about what someone else would do – whether that’s a friend or family member, or your favourite hero on television.
6. Ground yourself
No, you are not being sent to your room; in this case, we recommend planting your feet firmly on the ground with a power stance, closing your eyes, breathing. Think of meditation. When trying to keep calm during event disasters, visualization can work wonders. It helps to avoid an anxiety attack. Open your mind, and visualize the possible outcomes of the situation; make sure you focus on the one that you want to play out. Grounding yourself with your feet shoulder width apart also helps portray confident body language; and that can help you feel more in control. Feeling more confident increases the chances of you acting or reacting positively and getting a handle on any situation.
If you think about it, smiling is probably not the number one thing you are conscious of during a crisis. However, it’s essential for stress management when you need to keep calm during event disasters. Smiling helps others around you to feel more relaxed as it creates the illusion that you have everything under control. It’s difficult to manage a room full of attendees while trying to tackle unexpected situations.
Psychologists give the advice during times of heartbreak or extreme sadness: act the way you want to feel!
This relates to the fake it until you make it mentality and it really does work. While trying to convince others that you are happy and in control, you slowly start to convince yourself. And science says that smiling releases endorphins. Show off your pearly whites!
8. Call in reinforcements
In some cases, it’s better to admit defeat and ask for help, rather than struggling through and possibly making a situation worse. While you’re standing around hyperventilating , it’s okay to admit that you don’t know what to do – you can’t possibly plan for every single possible crisis. If you know you can’t handle it, you’ll feel better once you’ve called professionals; whether that be your boss, emergency response personnel, the fire department or a skilled trades person. Having an expert come in will help you feel more confident, will make any guests around feel confident and will instil a sense of relief because you’ve done the right thing in this case. Asking for help will also make you better prepared for the next time it happens, because you already lived through it once.
There is no replacement for emergency preparedness, especially at events. Though it’s nearly impossible to have a contingency plan for every possible scenario, doing your best to learn your surroundings, planning for the best (with back ups for the worst) will have you in the right mindset to act – just in case. Whether the event crisis is a severe injury, speakers not showing up, or a complete power outage, we hope these tips help prepare you to be rational under pressure. When seconds count, keeping your cool and maintaining a level head can be the difference between complete disaster and minor inconvenience. And don’t forget, emergencies don’t only happen in the real world. Brand, digital or other social media/PR emergencies can happen on-the-go, too. Contact us so we can take one of those stresses off your plate, or chat about other ways to increase engagement at your event.