How to Keep Your Cool and Put Out Fires at Events

How to Keep Your Cool and Put Out Fires at Events

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Posted: June 1, 2016 | Event Marketing

Even if you aren’t an event marketer, if you’ve ever planned a vacation or thrown a party, you know that things will happen that are out of your control.

If you’ve ever planned an event, however big or small, then you have an idea of the sort of adaptability and resourcefulness that event marketers need. Many of the unforeseen circumstances that can happen at events–whether trade shows, conferences, or virtual events–are out of your control. So, here are four tips to help you best prepare, react, and adapt to the fires that may arise at events:

1. Overprepare

It’s easy to check off your to-do list for a trade show and be done with it. You sent the invite, shipped the booth, booked your flight–all done! Or are you? As soon as you kick back a little, you may forget the small, but important, details. So, make your list, check it twice, and overprepare.

You may have sent out an event brief to your A-team, but take it a step further! Hold a kickoff call to ensure they understand their responsibilities. Ask them to text you their numbers so you can hold them accountable and track them down if they’re late. You may have emailed your speaker’s session deck to your event contact, but bring a USB copy just in case they can’t find the file on the day of the presentation. Extra steps like this may be a bit of extra work for you, but trust me, you will thank yourself later!

2. Expect the Unexpected

Once you’re feeling completely confident that you have everything set and ready to go, remember that things will inevitably change once the event is live. Maybe your booth graphics will be damaged upon arrival or one of your staff members will be unable to attend last minute. It can be difficult to put a ton of work into an event, visualize the outcome, and then have the reality not match your ideal. But because this is unavoidable, it’s important that you maintain a flexible mindset.

Event marketers are often exceedingly detail-oriented and organized–they are planners after all! While these Type A attributes are essential to the process, event marketers must also possess Type B traits to maintain flexibility while onsite. Instead of thinking of things as black and white, consider looking at them on a spectrum. There doesn’t have to be one right and one wrong answer. Just because you have a goal doesn’t mean that there is only one way to make it happen. There could be alternative methods that will get you to the same destination. If you maintain an adaptable mindset, when the time comes–whether you come across a minor bump in the road or a fallen tree blocking your path–you can resolve the issue creatively and move past it.

3. Remain Calm and React Quickly

Event management requires proactivity and grace under pressure. When you’re thrown a curveball during an event, it can be easy to react defensively or lash out at the people around you in frustration. What you have to remember is that in-the-moment emotional reactions aren’t productive and waste valuable time.

To handle things properly, you need to assess the damage, and address the situation. Resolve the issue to the best of your ability, and then follow up with those affected. It’s tempting to react to a problem by first trying to discover why it happened or who to blame; however, those questions need to wait until after the issue has been resolved. At that time, you can backtrack to determine the root cause, but a word of advice–playing the blame game isn’t always the way to go! It’s okay to admit fault, especially when you approached the resolution so rationally.

4. Let It Go

Now, let’s be real. It’s easy to say that you should check your emotions at the door, but that’s not always entirely feasible. After the situation is back under control, take a moment for yourself to deal with any emotions you’ve been suppressing. Things happen no matter how much you prepare, so take care of yourself. Go on a walk, call your best friend, go to a quiet room for a few minutes. Do whatever you need to do to let the situation go. Then, once you have dealt with your emotions, you can begin to put the mishap into perspective. It usually doesn’t feel as intense after you’ve put out the fire!

Events are unpredictable. While this can make them unsettling, it’s also what makes them so exciting! You prepare for weeks and months and then you get to see the living and breathing manifestation of your work. Of course, things won’t always be seamless, but if you’re prepared, expect the unexpected, and react quickly and proactively, what you do in these unforeseen situations may become some of your proudest moments!

What challenges have you run into at events and how did you overcome them? Share your stories in the comments below!

Mary Kate Francis is a Marketing Coordinator at Marketo. She is an avid musical theatre lover and has performed in 9 musicals in the last 5 years. Mary Kate earned a BA in English with a Certificate in Markets and Management at Duke University (Go Blue Devils!).

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Keep calm and carry on. Follow these 4 steps to keep your cool during fire drills at events:

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