Expert Event Series: Avoiding Disaster

Posted on Oct 14, 2009

Oct 14, 2009

Wow! It is already October. When did that happen… September was such a whirlwind of events, I turned around and it was over. Thanks to numerous weddings, a large fundraiser event for Cumberland Heights, Fall has started with a bang. With the help of members and others hosting events for the next few weeks we will continue to roll into the holiday season.

With any busy season, things get hectic and accidents happen… these mini disasters can be handle with frustration, crass and anger creating more major disasters or solved fluidly and effectively so the client is no the wiser. With any event, not all will go as planned… but any good event planner will seamless shift without anyone the wiser. Below I share a past experience that occurred nearly ten years ago and what I learned that has helped me deal with the onslaught of daily “disasters”.

By Krista Chapman

When I was 17 years old, I worked as a banquet captain at one of the largest banquet halls in my hometown of Green Bay, WI. Still to this day the largest wedding I have ever been a part of was at this location. The Bride’s father owned a large manufacturing business in Green Bay and the wedding had grown to 815 guests. This was all hands on deck type event, every chair, table and fork in the venue’s inventory was in use. We had numerous servers on for this event and some were of the Greenhorn variety. Gameplan for breakdown was similar… With the space full to the gills, we were going to clear and pull tables near the DJ, creating a dance floor. The process was simple, but with newbie severs things didn’t go as planned.

Guests finished their dinner and then moved to the nearby bar to wait and watch as the staffed turned the room. Tables needed to be cleared quickly and removed so a dance floor could be swept and mopped. As I was finishing my assigned section, I looked over to rows of tables stilled covered in bowls of mashed potatoes, half eaten plates of food and nearly full glasses. One of our newbie servers was horribly behind and these were the tables that needed to be cleared and pulled away sooner than those I was working on. I deserted my section and moved to help her.

As the staff converged on these remaining dirty tables, I found myself standing by myself with the last 8 ft banquet table, all the others pulled away and cleared. In an effort to make room for those now cleaning the floor, I grabbed the end of the table and started to pull it out of the way. Still

While this still remains at the top of my list of “most embarrassing moments,” what I learned was simple. It was just a party… just a steak… just a mess. All can be fixed, all can be cleaned up. The key to any event related disaster is to stay calm and roll with the punches. The constant element of chaos is what makes event planning exciting and creates the memories of real life. Certainly, I have been a part of many events celebrating and highlighting some of the most important moments in people’s lives. Having a plan A, B, C, D and E will help you to make last minute adjustments and problem solve even the most embarrassing of disasters. Having a grounded perspective of the grand scheme of things and clearly understanding your priorities will prevent regrets and mistakes. More often than not, a calm and controlled reaction will convince guests that this was all part of the program from the beginning… no one’s the wiser and you still maintain your pro status.

So take a breath, make the best decision for the moment, communicate the change of plans and be confident that everything will be just fine. Years later, these will be your best learning opportunities and the basis for great storytelling.

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