While we always encourage thorough planning and preparation for any event, there are bound to be speed bumps along the way. One of the best skills an event planner can learn is how to handle an event mishap. From a late guest of honor to inadequate seating, some things are just out of your control—and that’s okay! What matters most is how you handle these hiccups.
In most cases, guests won’t notice a well-handled event mishap. And, truth be told, most of your guests won’t care even if they do notice. More than anyone else, you’re going to be the most upset by something going wrong. That’s why it’s important to be prepared to handle any event mishap that comes your way.
Consider your mishap as part of the event—after all, the event planning isn’t complete until the event is over. So a mishap is just another detail you have to plan for (even if it is last-minute!). When you encounter an event mishap, these five steps will help you process and correct it.
1. Take a Deep Breath
To prevent yourself from reacting to the bad news—instead of responding with a solution—take a deep breath. If time allows, go for a quick walk around the venue to clear your head, or freak out in the bathroom if you need to. But panicking in front of guests or vendors is unprofessional, and will discourage them from working with you on a solution.
Bonus Tip: Don’t call your co-host or guest of honor when you’re panicking. Once you’ve calmed down, contact them if you need their approval or input.
2. Understand the Specifics
Once you’ve taken a minute to compose yourself, assess the situation. If there was a spill or the wrong colored napkins were delivered, take a look for yourself—not out of distrust, but so you are fully aware of predicament you’re in. Maybe the wrong napkins were delivered, but the new shade will still match the color palette. Even if that’s not the case, you need to understand the event mishap, so you can come to an informed solution.
In some cases, a mishap occurs because someone dropped the ball. While it’s still important to know what the miscommunication or error was, don’t focus too hard on it. It’s tempting to try and figure out exactly what went wrong, and when. But you may never know why navy blue napkins weren’t delivered—and you don’t need to know in order to correct the situation. Simply accept that you have ivory napkins and adjust accordingly.
3. Consider Your Timeline & Budget
Unfortunately, mishaps aren’t typically in your budget. In some cases—like receiving ivory napkins when the order clearly states navy blue—your event mishap might be reimbursed or compensated for in another way. But renting a car so the guest of honor can drive to the event is going to impact your bottom line.
Before making any adjustments, ask yourself,”How much time do I have?” and, “How much money can I spend?” This will help inform your decision. Your guest of honor absolutely needs to be at your event, but what is the most cost-effective way for them to arrive, without being late?
4. See Who’s Around
Delegation is another important tool for any event planner. You can fix some event mishaps on your own; a single phone call to the caterer will adjust the headcount three weeks before the event. But if you’re setting up for an event, you might not have time to run out and buy more napkins, or pick up the keynote speaker from the airport. Asking for help relieves some of your stress and keeps the event on track.
Of course, anyone setting up for an event has their own job to do already, so you may have to return the favor. Maybe you need to be on-site during set-up—but you can hang decorations and set tables while someone runs to the store. That way, both jobs get done and you’re still available for another event mishap (heaven forbid!).
5. Don’t Brag About It
You handled your event mishap like a pro—congratulations! This is a significant milestone, and you should be proud of your accomplishment. But the event you’re planning is not the right place to share your victory. Guests don’t want to know that their ivory napkins were supposed to be navy blue. And they certainly don’t want to know someone rushed to pick up the keynote speaker last minute. They will likely spend the rest of the time wondering what else is wrong.
Of course, if you’re co-hosting the event, you should share any pertinent changes or updates. But keep the conversation formal and matter-of-fact. Making a big deal about an event mishap will put your partner on edge, and just like your guests, they will start looking for other issues. Simply explain the situation and how you handled it.
Bonus Tip: Tell your co-host in private, not in front of guests.
Event mishaps come with the event planning territory. And the best mishaps are handled calmly, and used as a lesson for next time. Over time, it gets easier to navigate the bumps in the road, but until then, these five steps are sure to help!
What event mishap caught you off guard? And how did you handle it?