What If Your Event Goes Wrong: Backup Plans


POSTED BY | Will Simmonds

What are your options when something about your event goes wrong?

Every event has its issues and most of them are so small that no one even notices. Unfortunately there are some problems that can send even the most seasoned event planners into a cold sweat. When these problems occur, it can seem like the end of the world. Fortunately the event experts at Glaziers Hall are here to help. Whether you are dealing with a speaker who has cancelled or the threat of nobody showing up, we can guide you through the worst event disasters.


The current Covid pandemic has hit both events organisers and events venues hard. As an event organiser, you’ve lost the ability to run your event. As a venue, we are losing vast amounts of revenue. When you look at a venue for an event, protection from pandemics has suddenly risen to the top of the list of things to check. You need to know:

  • You are required to pay a deposit and if you get that deposit back if your event cannot take place.
  • The venues policy around changing dates, particularly at the last minute.
  • What precautions do they have in place to protect you and your guests.
  • How the venue’s capacities change, depending upon social distancing requirements.

At Glaziers Hall, there are no additional costs for moving events affected by Covid, assuming contracts are signed and the deposit paid, subject to availability of course. For more detail on our terms and conditions, particularly around deposits, call us on 020 7403 3300.

Too Many People

Most event planner’s nightmare is hosting an event where their speaker is standing in front of a sea of empty chairs, but what happens when too many guests turn up for your event? Trying to shoo away small groups of attendees with a broom tends to be frowned upon in the event community so let’s examine some more viable options.

If you are planning an event, even if it is free, treat it as though it is a paid event. That means managing ticket sales carefully, employing some form of security, running a waiting list, communicating with guests and ensuring fast entry.

Tickets allow you to know exactly how many people are planning to come to your event. While some ticket holders will inevitably drop out, you can control sales to prevent too many people turning up on the day. Even if you do not charge for the tickets, they provide you with control and subtly inform guests that they can’t bring plus ones unless they also hold a ticket. If you run regular events within a particular sector, you will also become accustomed to your average dropout or ‘no show’ rate and you can begin to allocate the number of tickets based on this figure to optimise your attendance.

Security at the door is a great way to manage crowds. If a large number of extra people turn up on the day without tickets, security can politely prevent this from becoming a problem. They can also stop event crashers from disrupting your big day.

Well attended events may cause frustration if attendees get caught in long lines or crowds. Preventing this requires good communication and a well organised entry plan. It is good to let guests know beforehand if your event is going to be busy. Encourage them to come early and plan for crowds. At the same time, you should ensure that there is a reliable plan in place to get guests into and around your event. If you are using tickets, make sure your ticket check point is as efficient as possible to avoid long lines.

Too Few People

This is the fear of all event organisers who are planning an event. However it is completely preventable. By utilising ticketing and focusing on a good marketing strategy, you can identify potential low attendance early and adjust accordingly. The key is to give yourself enough time to reach your audience and get them signed up.

Ticketing helps you see in real time how many people have committed to coming to your event. If your ticket numbers are low, you can immediately adjust your advertising and marketing to help bring in higher numbers.

Speaking of marketing and advertising, start early and devote plenty of time and budget to this. Leaving something to the last minute or not devoting enough time and effort will hurt your event. When selecting dates for your event, review a broader event calendar. Take care to check for or any transport strikes or road closures that have been announced in the area. Although these may be announced once your date has already been set, you can minimise the impact and stay ahead by contacting your guests to inform them of the best alternate route to your venue. Remember, just like with anything, you get out what you put in.

Speaker Cancels

You have secured a great keynote speaker and at the last minute, they cancel. Now you have an list of attendees waiting to hear from someone who isn’t going to show up. This can be a terrifying prospect so it is important to make sure you have a backup plan in place ahead of the event. Unless you want to get up and try to entertain the crowd yourself, you should have a backup speaker on standby. This person needs to be free at the time of the event, within 30 minutes of the venue and ready to speak on the required topic.

To ensure you and your audience receive prior warning of a speaker dropping out you should get everything in writing. Speakers should sign a contract that requires at least a 24 hour notice period if they will not be able to attend. You should also be in contact with them to make sure they have made appropriate travel arrangements and they have enough time to adjust in case there is an issue.

Venue Cancellation

A dedicated events venue works hard to make sure that they never need to cancel. After all, it is their own reputation and profitability on the line. However, it is important to have a backup plan just in case. Just like with the speaker, you should have your event hire terms and cancellation policy in writing and make sure that there is a minimum notice period for the venue to provide. Sometimes accidents happen; pipes burst or venues are forced to cancel for reasons beyond their control. In this situation, a reputable venue will reach out to their own industry contacts and should work to transfer your event to an alternate suitable venue. Discuss the fallback options in advance so you understand the ownership that your venue will take if the worst does happen and your event needs to be moved at the last minute.

Just in case everything else falls apart, research and contact other venues in the area, checking their last minute availability in the weeks approaching your event. That way you will have a fallback location in mind if everything goes wrong with your planned venue. This is a last resort but it is better than your guests turning up to find locked doors and a darkened venue.

This particular scenario also highlights the need for good communication between event planners and their guests. It is important to request contact details from your guests and have a system in place to reach out en mass if need be. That way if there is a last minute change of venue you can quickly reach out to attendees with information and updates.

Technical Issues

Your speakers have turned up on time, your venue is perfect and all your guests have arrived; don’t let the technology let you down. Laptops can fail, WiFi can go down and AV equipment may not pair well with other technology. A good planner should check all equipment before the event starts and create a backup plan in advance.

Good event planners test all equipment the speaker will be using. If you plan on using a speaker and microphone, plug them in and test them long before your event is set to run. If you have roving mics for your audience, test them around your venue to see if they feed back anywhere or if they drop out of range anywhere in the room. Even if the venue has WiFi, make sure you have all of your assets offline as well. The best option is to have two separate backups. That could mean an offline version of a presentation and a hard copy. You should also test that your technology is compatible with the tech provided by your venue.


If your event is outside or you could be affected by extreme weather you need to make allowances. In a place like the UK all outdoor events need to have a plan for rain. Depending on your event, this could mean providing a marquee or moving the entire event inside. Without a proper plan you could have a ruined event and some very angry guests.

The first step in making a plan for weather is to look at where your event may be vulnerable to the elements. An inch of snow in the UK can throw traffic into chaos and leave rail transport in a mess. By identifying how weather could affect your event, you can put together a weather plan. Beyond that, it is hard to give good advice. Just make sure you have your plan and that there are contingencies in place.

Lack Of Amenities

A lack of amenities can ruin an event. For example, if you do not have enough bathrooms, your guests will be left feeling uncomfortable and unhappy. You need to examine the number of people attending your event and their needs for the timeframe that your event spans. This will provide an idea of what you need to plan for.

First examine the time of day that your event is booked for. If it is in the morning, you may wish to have coffee and breakfast options. If your event is scheduled for midday you may be looking to have lunch options or some canapés.

Next look at the facilities everyone will need. This includes bathrooms, WiFi, seating and accessibility. If attendees are going to be taking notes, you will need tables available; if press are invited, they might like their own area where they can charge laptops or get away to write an article.

Finally, try to go above and beyond where possible. Time and budget permitting, try to go a bit above what is expected and your guests will notice.

Things To Remember

In all of the above examples there are a few constants. These are things that any good event planner should be doing no matter what is happening. Think of them like the 10 commandments for  events managers.

  1. Stay Calm, panicking won’t help anything.
  2. Stay in control. Don’t drop the reins if something goes wrong.
  3. Be flexible. Things will go wrong, adjust quickly.
  4. Find the problem so you can fix it.
  5. Move quickly when there is an issue.
  6. Be honest. Lying will only make things worse.
  7. Announce the solution at the same time you announce the problem.
  8. Test everything and always have a contingency.
  9. Get everything in writing.
  10. Put procedures in place for every situation you can.

If you are planning an event, Glaziers Hall is the perfect venue for you. You can contact us today to learn more from our event planning specialists.