Crisis Management for #Eventprofs

After a few gatherings of the Event Managers Meetup Group, where we have discussed various disasters, a pattern has emerged of the most common crises us #eventprofs have to handle on a regular basis. Looking at feedback from the group, it looks like future discussions will look at digital footprints, social media and content planning, recruitment and event technology, so before we move away from the theme of Surviving Disaster, here is The Guide to Events summary of how to overcome some of the biggest problems facing event managers today.

1. When a sponsor bails at the last moment


For whatever reason (and there could be many), one of your sponsors didn’t quite get around to signing the booking form and you’re about to send out branded invites. Then they cancel at the eleventh hour.

  • Call all their competitors
  • Offer a better deal for half the price
  • Demand a quick decision
  • Accept the first competitor to agree
  • Double the amount of brand exposure
  • Promote the hell out of the new sponsor
  • Double the price next year

2. When your venue is too big for your event


Maybe you were too optimistic when choosing the space, or the industry has been hit by an untimely crisis, but either way, your 150 delegates are going to look lost in your 500-person venue.

Negotiate with the venue to reduce numbers for catering (rather than cancelling) and use visual trickery:

  • Build expo booths & staging away from the walls
  • Make the edges of rooms darker, to draw the focus into the middle
  • Use fewer – not more – chairs than you need
  • Move networking sessions to smaller spaces (with lower ceilings) in the venue

3. When your keynote speaker doesn’t show up at the last moment


For all the planning in the world, you cannot make a speaker who has failed to turn up just appear out of thin air.

  • If they are just late, try to switch with another session, then reschedule for when they do arrive
  • Try and find a business competitor only too happy to steal the limelight
  • Canvas the delegate list for 3 or 4 experts in this area & ask them to join a panel discussion on the topic instead

4. When your sponsors aren’t happy with the number of delegates


Even if you have filled the room with people, if they aren’t ‘buyers’ or of high enough calibre, you will need to find ways to maximise value for your sponsors and exhibitors.

  • Sit down with your sponsors and find out what the best ROI will be for them
  • Devote a member of the team to ensuring they meet the right people
  • Try to deliver unexpected value from the event: free accommodation, room upgrades, a better table at dinner, a post-event mailshot

5. When the press gets hold of the wrong story


With a thousand moving parts at a live event, a thousand things could go wrong. This happens, but you never want the public (and especially not the press) to see behind the curtain. Sometimes it can’t be avoided though. If it does…

  • Journalism is focused on short-term wins, so take control. Play the long game. Don’t panic.
  • Be ‘flawsome’, own mistakes, apologise and move on.
  • Keep in mind what you need to be remembered one month, one year from now.
  • Bury bad news under good. Spin the positives. Offer exclusive access & interviews.
  • Rewrite the story: aggressively press release all the good news, especially on social media.

Get involved!
If you would like to swap war stories with other event veterans, and learn from other event professionals in London, please join the group at  Please also follow the blog at, Twitter: and Instagram:


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Editor • 24th April 2016

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