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Controlling the Chaos of Live Events With Efficient, Effective Management

The slap heard around the world: it was shocking, polarizing, and dominated the news cycle for the next week. When the incident between Chris Rock and Will Smith transpired at the Oscars, commentators around the globe instantly began to formulate opinions: what should have been done, what could have been done, what can be done now?


As a professional event management company, the idea of controlling chaos at an event, and having mitigating measures in place to avoid unpleasantness, is not a new one. It’s something that we have incredibly detailed processes around, and since this incident brought it to the top of everyone’s mind, we thought it was worth sharing some insights.


First: Make Sure You Trust the Talent


We’ll use a story to illustrate this point. Someone on our team was working at a top three consulting firm as part of an event planning group. In the first meeting with a prestigious speaker, it became immediately clear there was a grave ideological disconnect. The whole team laughed uncomfortably, and within a week, it was announced that this speaker would not be headlining at the event.


What would have happened if initial vetting hadn’t occurred? Most often, corporate events use in-network individuals, referred to you by other businesses or colleagues. Even so, do your due diligence. Don’t just watch videos, demo reels, or read their work: have virtual video calls. Get to know them. See how they act and react. It’s essential that you only put someone front and center that you can trust, and you aren’t left wanting to jump in (or even having to jump in) if a great speaker conveys a message your company disagrees with.


Most of the risk you have isn’t a backhand, it’s an undermining of the brand authority and message you want an event to present. You reduce the risk of both scenarios by adequately vetting talent.


Second: Use Technology to Institute Protocol


Whether you need to cut the microphone, cut the video feed on a webinar, or (worst case scenario) call in security, technology is your friend. Control the chaos of live events by implementing a streamlined system of total connectivity. Use headsets, use closed circuits, use walkie-talkie apps: whatever it takes, make sure that you have a system. Most corporate events take place in large convention centers, which means that you can’t be physically present everywhere at once, and you certainly can’t leg it to a crisis.


Make sure that you, and everyone on your team, are plugged in and communicating throughout the whole course of the event. This isn’t just a best practice that makes the event run more smoothly, it is a valuable tool for quickly updating everyone if something goes wrong.


Third: Remember That People are Unpredictable


We agree that one of the most surprising things about the Oscar incident was the “who.” No one would have predicted that things would play out like they did. This is an important tenet of effective event management: people are unpredictable. They don’t always react how they think you will.


This underlying principle informs everything from how we use signage at events to how we format follow up. Make sure that you are paying attention to people in the moment. We don’t make best guesses: we gather as much information as possible, then stay in a state of heightened awareness throughout an entire event.


In some senses, this attitude is really the core of good hosting (you don’t miss people who are lost, looking for directions, wanting guidance) but it has the side bonus of alerting you to issues before they escalate.


Last: Have Backup Plans for Your Backup Plans


As event managers, we are well conditioned to expect the unexpected. And, believe us, the unexpected will happen. Whether it’s a presenter with poor discretion, an open bar that leads to misbehaving, or a serious security threat, you must have a plan in place… but you also must have backup plans.


What we know is that you can’t anticipate everything. Everyone at the Oscars went from chuckling to disbelief within seconds, and the instant audio disruption tells us there was some behind the scenes scurrying. For live TV, the stakes are high. For any live event (in-person or online), the stakes are high as well.


Here are some of the arenas we’re talking about:


  • Have a backup plan for presenters. In other words, if someone chokes or makes an inappropriate comment or even does something unthinkable, is someone ready to jump in and take over?

  • Have a backup plan for security. Most corporate events don’t have or need high level armed security personnel. But you do need to have a plan for coordinating with on site security or contacting local law enforcement in case anything untoward happens.

  • Have a backup plan for sessions or breakouts. There is a domino effect if something goes wrong with a keynote speaker or main presenter. Often, these individuals are also leading breakout sessions, signing books, or doing additional appearance-related work. Make sure your guests don’t feel further upset or even cheated by missing out on helpful content. Have a backup plan.

As Always, Hire the Right Event Management Company


There are so many things you can’t plan for. Your best bet to avoiding chaos during a live event is to hire an event management company that knows what they’re doing. Choose one that has experience with the type of event you are holding. A team of professionals has plenty of tricks up their sleeve to keep uncertainty at bay.


Want tips on what to look for in an event management company? We have a free download for that. Go here to get it now.

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