What is a crisis management plan?
For many event planners, it is a dream to have an event go as smoothly as they envisioned. But unless they can see into the future, most planned events don't always go our way. That's why having a crisis plan is essential to minimise the risks and accidents.

For many event planners, it is a dream to have an event go as smoothly as they envisioned. But unless they can see into the future, most planned events don’t always go our way. Accidents and last-minute crises happen. If they are not resolved immediately, the whole event can go awry. That’s why having a crisis management plan is essential to minimise the risks and accidents. It’s also a helpful guide for handling an unfortunate situation so planners and hosts can promptly address incidents.

In event planning, practicality and being prepared is king. And quick-thinking skills can only be enhanced by having a crisis plan for every event you organise.

What is a crisis management plan?

A crisis plan or crisis management plan outlines the responses to a critical situation that would negatively affect an organisation or an event. In terms of event planning, a crisis plan lays down the possible crisis that may arise and the appropriate reactions or solutions for them.

A crisis can happen anywhere at any time. And the event industry is no stranger to those.

Why crisis management is important

With a crisis plan, you can avoid both significant problems that arise as well as minor hiccups that may sneak up on you. For instance, what would you do if the participants got held up by the entrance because your check-in software suddenly did not work? Or what if the keynote speaker did not show up? These are only a few of the possible scenarios that can come up. Other significant problems like natural disasters, security issues, medical accidents, etc., can also affect a planned event big time, which is why as an event planner, having a crisis plan in place is of utmost importance.

Moreover, mishandling crises can also incur planners additional costs, mess up the timings or even increase delays of planned activities or talks, and most importantly, compromise the guests’ level of satisfaction. This could seriously affect the image of the companies involved in the event. And poor handling of unfortunate events can leave an indelible mark on the hosts’ reputation and the event planners themselves.

Purpose of a crisis plan

Now that we know the importance of crisis management, creating a crisis plan should follow. A good crisis plan must be tailored to a specific event, be it a meeting, a conference, a trade show. And with the help of partners or sponsors and public safety departments, an event planner should identify all possible emergencies. When creating a plan, the organiser should also consider the audience or participants, both the size and the demographics.

Preparing for crisis management

Creating a thorough crisis plan

A good crisis plan specifies all the rules that need to be followed, and it also considers a wide variety of possible crises and their corresponding responses. For a specific program for a particular event, you will need to adapt your plan to cover the distinctions of that area and the client and hosts.

For example, consider these questions when creating your crisis plan:

  • What resources are available in the venue/location to help deal with an incident?
  • What are the closest medical facilities? Their hours of operation?
  • Where is the nearest embassy, and how can you contact them?

Crisis communications

The key to effective crisis management is communication. Especially so if you’re handling a big event since one person can’t be in many places at once, communicating with your team is essential. When establishing crisis communications, you can first identify the event audience. Which ones are the attendees, partners (speakers, sponsors, exhibitors), suppliers (security, logistics, venue staff, catering), journalists, and colleagues?

Next, you assign an audience’ owner’ from your team as the primary contact points for each category. These owners should also create the contact lists of the audience they’re assigned to and collate them into a database or registration software so you can easily update this information.

Have a transparent chain of command

Have a tiered plan that details decision-making and escalation in an emergency. First, it needs to be clear who needs to be involved when resolving the crisis and who needs to be contacted to make a decision. This is a standard approach and should be established on-site. Doing so provides clarity of command and lets your staff operate in an organised manner.

Aside from the internal team, the event partners and sponsors should also know who to contact first from your team if an emergency arises. Doing a program pre-con is an excellent way to establish this. If your client has their own security or risk management team, you should also determine their place in the chain of command and identify which situations they will handle and which ones need your team’s attention.

Collect necessary information and documentation

Gathering the attendees’ information and documenting it is vital to communicate with them if an incident occurs. That means collecting their contact information and their emergency contact information.

And suppose you have attendees flying in from overseas. In that case, we also recommend you collect information such as passport details in case of an incident that requires contacting their country’s embassy. Gathering information and documentation is key to protecting your team legally.

Event crisis plan flow

Before:

  • Prevention: assessing risks, diagnosis of possible situations, a roadmap to action
  • Transparency clarity in decision making
  • Crisis management plan

During

  • Find out the facts
  • Track solutions
  • Communicate about the efforts with clear messages
  • Speak simply and avoid technical terms
  • Monitor media and public relation
  • Have a single spokesperson
  • Have a public response ready

After the crisis

  • Discuss the case and document it
  • Update your crisis plan according to the outcome
  • Transform the situation into an opportunity

Conclusion

In any event, whether big or small, being prepared is key to ensuring that things go as smoothly as possible. And while we can’t prevent accidents from happening, we can surely anticipate them and resolve them with a good crisis plan.

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