Manage Risks and Develop Contingency Plans

Risk is possibly the one topic that flares up anxiety when planning an event  – thinking about potential risks to your plan and having to create the best contingency. While you do not want to think about anything going wrong, or do not believe it can happen to you, having a good handle on potential risks will save you from any nasty surprises and will definitely help you to quickly make decisions to resolve issues.

Risks can manifest in many shapes and sizes, for example:

  • A vendor becomes sick on the day of your event
  • Your outdoor location is hit by an unexpected weather turn
  • The decorations fall down from the ceiling

Honestly, anything could happen and if you can imagine it, the scenario has probably already happened to someone else. This is where it’s important to do some research and hear horror stories about things that have gone wrong from friends and family in the past. As you work with your team to build out the event planning more (vendors, colleagues and support staff), you can update as needed… But do your background checks and get sign off from everyone involved to ensure everyone is aware of any potential problems. This is probably the most uncomfortable part of event management, but also the most rewarding in the long run. You may feel anxious while building it out but once you have solutions and ways to avoid risks from happening, you’ll feel much more relieved when it comes to executing on your plan. How, you ask?

  1. Mitigate risks: Identifying potential risks also gives you the ability to reduce the probability of it happening. Having plans in place ahead of an incident will also reduce the impact levels of a risk to your plan.
  2. Avoid: If you identify a risk that can be easily avoided by including additional staffing members or asking the right questions to vendors, this is the time to know about it.
  3. Transfer: Realistically, you can’t do everything when it comes to finalising event details. While planning risks, you may notice that some of them come under the remit of a vendor or staff member. Save yourself the trouble and worry by transferring this responsibility to someone else. Remember to include this responsibility in any contracting or statement of works so there is no miscommunication on who is responsible!
  4. Accept: Sometimes there is nothing you can do about a risk – for example, it may rain on your outside venue. You can choose not to act on this and hope the clouds blow over in time to start the party. There are contingencies you can put in place, but if it is unavoidable, it’s just unavoidable. However, this approach is best for risks that may not impact your event too heavily and are less likely to happen at all.

Team members should definitely be encouraged and given an open forum to voice additional risks that may come up along the way. There’s a chance that not everything has been considered and something that can snowball from minor to major is not picked up until the event execution has already started. For example, shipping delays from overseas companies means lighting will not be available in time – now you are aware, are there any local companies that can provide a similar service in a short time frame? It’s always good to know early and avoid last minute disasters. Keep your phone on and inbox open. You’re going to want to know about any and all potential risks.

Rating each risk on a scale of 1 to 10 will help you know how alert you need to be. Do a rating scale for the Probability of the risk happening, and what Impact the risk will have. Track everything somewhere you have quick access – preferably for all items on your task list. Each task may have more than one risk, and all risks should be tracked.

In your event spreadsheet, create a new tab – name the new tab ‘Risks’. Here you will be capturing the following information:

2017-10-05 (12)

Be sure to include as much detail as possible, and use this during your team meetings to understand the status. You’ll be relieved as you pass by each risk without any issues having arisen, and also relieved for a quick decision when a risk does appear. Your response option will give you and the team an understanding on what to do – ignore it or find an alternative option. If it’s already written down, you have already created a contingency for the issue.

Share some of your experiences in the comments: What kind of issues have you experienced when planning events, and how did you overcome them?


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