The ultimate contingency guide for event planners

Want to make sure everything goes to plan? Prepare for these worst case scenarios and you'll be A-OK.

Updated on 10 August 2022 • Written By Megan Geall

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The ultimate contingency guide for event planners

After months and months of planning, the last thing an event planner wants is for all their hard work to do down the drain, especially if it's something that could have been avoided. There are so many things that can derail your careful planning - many of them beyond our control. Considering them all can be quite overwhelming, but good event means preparing contingencies for every eventuality, so that the final event goes off without a hitch. You've spent months in meetings with your client, securing the correct location, decorations, equipment, and staff - it would be truly heartbreaking to see things go wrong at the last minute.


It’s safe to say the pandemic taught us that adaptabillity is key, and that is definitely true of event planning. While lockdowns and restriction are now a thing of the past, you may still be planning your first big post-Covid event so, if you’re struggling, why don’t you check out our guide to planning your first post-Covid event?  

It’s virtually impossible to think of everything you need for an event, or everything that could go wrong, and it certainly gets harder the larger your event is. Every event planner is good at organising - after all that's what got you the role in the first place - so an organised plan to tackle any issues that crop up makes perfect sense. 

It's crucial to have contingency plans for things that can go wrong on the day, so we put our thinking caps on and came up with all the worst-case scenarios that haunt our event dreams. The likelihood of all these scenarios happening is pretty slim, and if they did all happen at one event then you might just be the unluckiest event planner alive. This list isn’t meant to scare you or give you more things to stress over; instead, we’re getting you prepared with tips to mitigate risks and react to issues in the best way and keep your event running at its absolute best! Cheers and happy planning!

Your speaker doesn't turn up

Issue: You’ve spent ages selecting the perfect guest speaker and they’ve cancelled last minute, or haven't shown up 
Solution: The first preventative measure is to have a clause in your guest speakers contract that they have to give you a reasonable notice period (of your discretion) if they can't make it. If your event is more casual and you don’t have a contract in place, there are still plenty of ways to avoid an awkward scenario. Have a back-up speaker in mind – they may not be as prepared as the original, but it will stop any last minute scrambling panic. Don’t want the quality of your event to take a dive? We hear you. Instead, have a backup activity in the wings that is engaging and sociable for your guests.

Bad weather

Issue: You think nothing can go wrong; everything is planned down to the minute and then the storm hits. Now what? 
Solution: Let's be real, this is the UK and bad weather can appear at a moment's notice. One back-up plan for al fresco events is to hire out portable marquees to shelter your event-goers from the wind and rain, as well as portable outdoor flooring to avoid heels getting stuck in the mud. With bad weather we immediately think of storms, but extreme heat can be just as problematic. Whatever the weather, prepare with amenities like umbrellas, ponchos, fans, suncream and a range of hot and cold beverages. Finally, communication is key! If you want a great turnout, ensure your guests are kept in the loop about whether the event is still going ahead.  

Missing event staff

Issue: Everything is running smoothly so far; guests are beginning to arrive but your staff are struggling to keep up because there are staff members missing. 
Solution: There are a few preventative measures you can take when it comes to organising event staff. First up, if the budget is flexible, consider hiring more staff than you’ll think you’ll need - it's usually better to be overstaffed than understaffed. Make sure to thoroughly interview your staff and set clear expectations for them to meet. Select key team leaders to organise the rest of the staff – you don’t want to spend your whole event managing everyone. And once again, communication is key; stay in contact with your staff from hiring until the event is finished. 

Your tech fails

Issue: The stage is lit, you have your guest's attention and the speaker is ready. And suddenly the tech fails and the mic isn’t working. Awkward... 
Solution: But not for long! We’ve got the solution. If it’s a large event, consider hiring a professional team to work your event; they’ll have all the right gear and appropriate equipment to keep everything running smoothly. In our modern world, so much is managed online, but that means much of your equipment is reliant on working WiFi. Be prepared with files and other necessities on a USB, or even hard copies if necessary, and think about setting up a network for event staff only, so they're not competing for a connection with your attendees. Finally, we suggest doing a rehearsal before the event; set up lights, cameras and mics to test everything is running smoothly.  

Transportation problems en route to your event

Issue: You’ve planned the perfect event, and then your day is hit by transport strikes and major delays. 
Solution: As any commuter will tell you, transportation issues have a habit of appearing at the worst times, whether that means rail strikes or weather-related delays. The best way of dealing with strike delays is to double and triple check strike schedules in advance of your event, and ensure constant communication and updates with your attendees. If you’re unable to move your event off of a strike day, suggest different transport options to your guests – are there rail replacement buses? Alternative routes? Or it even may be necessary to organise taxis to personally transport those stuck or delayed. 

Transportation problems at your event

Issue: You’ve organised transport to shuttle your guests between venues but inadequate vehicles and staff grind everything to a halt. 
Solution: There's nothing worse than your vehicle breaking down and, while they are spontaneous incidents, you can mitigate the risk by having extra vehicles on standby and ensuring crucial vehicle checks are made prior to the event. It's also worth vetting your valets and drivers as they act as representatives for your event and may be your guests’ first impression of the evening. Ensure they are educated on proper customer service and are well-presented.  

Low turnout

Issue: Lots of attendees RSVP'd, but now the day has arrived and you don’t have the turnout you’d hoped for.  
Solution: As the saying goes: it’s their loss. You’ve planned a great event and they’re certainly missing out. Engage on social media throughout the event, post photos and videos of your guests getting involved and having a great time; round it off by sending out a ‘sorry you couldn't make it’ note post-event to garner interest for your next one – everyone hates getting FOMO afterall. Don’t forget the guests that did show - the lower attendance might mean you can do something special for those who are there, like allowing them a personal chat with your speaker. Get them posting on socials, and encourage networking by introducing them to people they haven’t interacted with before. If all else fails, there’s always next time where you can entice guests with goodies and an air of exclusivity.  


Issue: You’ve spent time picking a gorgeous venue with fancy chandeliers and setting up lighting for your stage but then the power cuts out mid-event and ruins it. 
Solution: First of all, stay calm – if you look panicked, this will feed down to your guests. Switch off any electrical appliances that shouldn’t be left unattended and leave a light switched on so you know when power is restored. Be prepared with torches and LED lights/candles to hand out to your guests however, this is 2022, so most people will probably switch their phone torches on. Now your guests are looked after, you can check with neighbouring venues to see whether the power cut is contained to your event. Locate your venue’s trip switch and contact the electricity company for further information.  

Catering Issues

Issue: Inadequate catering comes in all shapes and sizes – dietary needs not covered? Presentation is terrible? Not enough serving staff? And the worst – not enough food.  
Solution: Hungry guests can quickly turn into hangry guests; you don’t want your guests needing to stop off for a takeaway on their way home. Make sure to survey your guest’s dietary needs in the months prior to your event so that the catering company can properly accommodate everyone. It’s also important to thoroughly discuss the menu and expectations of the food; keep the menu varied with a few safe options for those picky eaters. If you’re serving small plates or buffet-style food, make sure there plenty of serving staff cleaning away dirty plates and ensuring all your guests are happy. Another quick fix is to hire an entertainer to keep guests engaged between courses and give your event even more of a WOW factor – who doesn’t love a magician, right? 

Problems with facilites

Issue: The venue may have originally seemed to be an absolute gem but it turns into your worst nightmare when the Wi-Fi is too weak, the coat check demand is too high, there aren’t enough restrooms or, even worse, they break.  
Solution: Mitigation is key when it comes to facility problems. When choosing your venue, come prepared with a list of scenarios that could go wrong on the night and see if the venue can suitably deal with those situations. Make sure there’s a large space for bags and coats as well as a backup area behind the scenes. If you’re ensure whether there will be enough restrooms, consider hiring portable toilets for your event and hire specific cleaners to keep all restrooms clean and well-maintained. On the day of your event, organise a team to be on-standby to fix any issues that arise and ensure effective communication between your team, you and your guests throughout. 

Schedule overruns

Issue: Your speakers got a little carried away and now you’re behind schedule – here's how to get your event back on track 
Solution: First up: mitigation. Remind your speaker before the event how much time they have been allocated and agree on a visual cue that you can give when it's time for them to wrap things up. When planning events, it is important to include buffer-times, like coffee breaks or entertainment, to allow some flexibility and the possibility of absorbing potential overruns. If it comes down to it and you need to cut certain things out of your planned event, prioritise important points like speakers and networking opportunities for your guests. At the end of the day, you’re there to make your guests happy! 

Guest injuries or mishaps

Issue: Accidents happen! While a risk assessment should be completed before your event, a guest may stay slip on a wet surface, fall ill, trip over or simply drink a little too much. 
Solution: Act quickly and calmly. Record the accident and remove any remaining hazard, taking photographic evidence if needed. Next, communicate with your guest, understand their needs and what actions need to be taken next. Quiet areas away from the main event provide the perfect spot for prioritising the wellbeing of your guests. A calm, time out from the atmosphere may be what your guests need, especially if they’ve drunk too much. Provide water, a range of soft drinks and alcohol-free options for all to enjoy.  

Contingency plans have become increasingly common over the last few years and we've also seen sustainble events become more common. The conversation on sustainablility is louder than ever, so now's the time to make the environment your best friend and follow our suggestions of simple and effective ways to make your next event eco-friendly.

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