All sorts of corny statements can be used to describe business life and the pressure to perform. The imperative to “Keep Calm and Carry On” was originally coined by the UK’s Ministry of Information during the Second World War. In fact, it was reserved for use in the event of a major national disaster, or if the country was invaded and occupied by the enemy! We would hope not to face quite such extreme conditions at work, but there are many occasions when success depends on retaining control and order.
An essential quality of leadership is a quiet authority and confidence, which often inspires and reassures people that the “SS Enterprise” is on a straight course and not heading for the rocks. In every good crisis story, there is a hero who saves the day. Usually those people are modest individuals who tend, when interviewed afterwards, to say things like “I was just doing my job” or “It is what I am trained to do.”
This illustrates an important point about planning any project or live event, which is that you should always assume that some aspect of Plan A will fail and you must have a Plan B, or a Contingency Plan, that can be implemented when necessary. The first priority is to produce a clear and detailed operational plan that specifies every task or action and who is responsible for each of them so if or when you need to revert to Plan B, everyone knows their role.
Keep calm – and prepared!
The “Be Prepared” edict applies to the management of production lines, call centres, research laboratories, schools and colleges, hospitals and every other place of work or study. It is also a critical feature of managing corporate events, whether an exclusive hospitality event, a conference, a business presentation, a product launch or an incentive travel programme in the UK or overseas.
There is a saying which goes something like this – “If you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs, you don’t understand the severity of the problem!” That is of course an irreverent parody of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, but a warped sense of humour is sometimes the last defence against insanity in extreme situations and is frequently practised by event managers as a technique for releasing tension and raising morale.
Professional training and practical experience over many years give top event management specialists a rare capacity for floating serenely across the scene like a swan whilst paddling frantically below the surface (in their heads and behind the scenes) to ensure that the desired legendary sense of calm is preserved.
The advantages of working with an accomplished event management expert are not confined to disaster recovery however, so how else do they add value? Here are a few examples:
- Proficient planning identifies potential problems before they occur
- Experience helps to identify more options and achieve optimum value
- Shared ownership of the project helps to align client’s and agency’s objectives
- The agency’s responsibility and accountability makes control of the live event more effective
- The ability to handle sudden changes or surprises is part of an event manager’s DNA
- Creativity will be tempered with honest reality, to avoid potential disappointment
- An agency’s income from events only continues if they make money for the client too – they have a vested interest in making it perfect!
When issues occur, the event manager will ensure that the focus remains on the hosts and their interaction with their guests. Unforeseen problems will hopefully have little or no adverse effect on the success of the event itself. It is a fact of life that challenges will arise – how they are dealt with are the key. Some challenges are more common than others, but the causes can include:
- extreme weather conditions (and subsequent travel disruption)
- illness or injury of one or more participants
- a personal or business crisis somewhere else that affects someone attending the event
- failure of equipment or supplies
- disruption to services or damage to facilities
- an unexpected business situation necessitating changes to the event schedule or content
- a threat to delegates’ security from local or national political or social unrest
There can never be a perfect event plan in advance as nobody (yet) has invented a fool-proof crystal ball. Creative event management agencies are better than most, however, at preparing for anything. On site at live events, they prove their value when the unexpected happens. That is when they show their true mettle by ensuring they keep calm and allowing everyone else to enjoy the experience!