Let’s assume that you have done everything in your power to plan and prepare for your forthcoming event.
Without this element, you can absolutely expect it to all go wrong!
The situations described below have genuinely happened. Sometimes you really have to step up, out of your comfort zone, and deliver something more than you intended.
Here’s what I learnt from it all going wrong…..
The right people
The organiser has had a meltdown and is so overwhelmed that are unable to carry out their duties. There is no point pointing the blame and expecting a different outcome. Something has happened to bring them to that point. They may be out of their depth and have had to step in and take on a role they are not fully equipped for. Life may have happened outside of work and caused too much stress. Whatever the reason, the person you need to help you get started is out of action (hopefully temporarily). It’s time to step up and find a solution if possible.
Find someone different to help. There are usually the people in the background that make everything happen without most realising how much hard work has gone on behind the scenes.
Think maintenance people, IT gurus, caretakers, etc. Put in a polite plea and explain what has happened, without being rude about their colleague and see what can be done.
Instructions were received about sending in power points ahead of a presentation. On arrival, slides were nowhere to be found.
Although you may have been told what will be present on arrival, assume the worst and have copies or back-ups of presentations or materials that are required on the day.
If a particular problem cannot be solved in time for what you need to do, then you will need to find an alternative way to deliver your content.
What outcomes are you hoping to achieve?
What are the most important elements and try and focus on these if not all are possible on the day?
Believe in what you are delivering and stick to your principles. If you start to doubt yourself or don’t deliver your event with conviction, whatever is going on around you, your audience will start to doubt it too.
Yes, you will be swan-like, frantically paddling away underneath the surface while trying to appear calm on top, but you do need to always be professional. Even if those around you are not.
Keep calm and keep smiling if possible. If you panic too much you will not think clearly. It may not be your fault, but you can only do everything in your power to make it as good as you possibly can.
Ahead of an event, I will usually make prizes or thank-you gifts to hand out.
I always keep a few extra chocolate treats on me and hand these out to all those that have helped me solve any problems as a thank you for their time and effort. Acknowledging that others are going out of their way to make your visit work will pay dividends on the day and nice gestures are remembered if you are called back to visit again.
Escalate the issue
It may not be fixable.
Your event may start to unravel to a point of no return due to problems encountered.
Here I would seek out management and explain what is going on and agree on a joint solution.
Might it be better to reschedule and visit another day?
Do the organisation wish you to deliver whatever is possible, knowing it will not be quite what was agreed upon. Actively trying to resolve something rather than going into melt-down mode will at least be constructive and hopefully gain you credibility with the organisation you are dealing with.
Allow plenty of time for everything. Factor in extra time so if something does go wrong, you will have time to try and fix it.
Keep perspective, hopefully, nothing is life-threatening, only frustrating or potentially embarrassing.
If you experience a disengaged or challenging audience, it can be a tough gig to bring them around. Study a speaking guru and practice, practice, practice.
Keep up the energy and try hard to get your message across. Use engagement techniques, like asking questions, raising arms for a quick survey. Try and change the energy in the room and get buy-in if possible.
Don’t keep shouting above the noise, if necessary, stand still and silent and wait for calm. Usually, other members of staff will help if things get too disruptive – you can ask for their help if necessary.
Believe in your audience and make sure they know it. Prove you really mean it.
Here are some tips for running successful school events.
What went on? What can you do to make sure you improve and hone what you have control over?
Make a note of everything that went wrong as some things will be out of your control. If you intend to visit the venue again, have your notes to hand so that you can cover potential issues for next time.
Do give constructive feedback to the organisers. They did not wish you to visit and experience problems. If there are issues to fix, don’t moan or be too negative but do ensure you point out where outcomes may have been adversely affected.
In your feedback ensure you celebrate any achievements made, despite the circumstances.
It’s stressful and hard work and has a knock-on effect on you personally when something you have put a lot of energy and effort into goes wrong or is particularly difficult. Do your best and hold your head high. It’s a learning experience if nothing else. If you run your own business, it’s in your power to choose not to return if you wish!