What to do in case of emergencies

Keynote’s laptop battery dies? Nut allergy sends the boss to the hospital? Surprise storm wipes out transportation options?

While these nightmarish scenarios could ruin your event, they don’t have to.

“The most important thing when planning an event is to pay attention to details,” said Philip Gottula, owner of Fort Collins-based FLEXX Productions. “The details will kill ya.”

If you want to avoid the following disaster scenarios, plan well, check and double-check your arrangements and, as Gottula advises, pay attention to those details.

Power outage and other tech nightmares

No matter what their specialty, every event planner we interviewed listed tech meltdowns as their No. 1 event-planning nightmare.

The good news is, most of these nightmares can be avoided.

Months before your event, walk through the facility, note which projectors and adaptors the facility has, and get your hands on the ones they don’t. Make sure video presentations can connect to speakers, computers to projectors.

“Let’s say your presenter has a laptop project, but he has a MacBook and that doesn’t have the right adaptor for the projector,” Gottula said. “All of a sudden your presentation can’t go up on the screen. That will definitely hurt you.”

Extension cords, iPhone chargers — any plug or any adapter for any device should be in your bag of goodies. If you don’t have the technology, you’re asking for trouble.

But what about the unpredictable? What about power outages, or system-wide Internet resets?

“Some things are out of everyone’s control,” said Tim Gumm, conference services manager at St. Julien Hotel & Spa in Boulder. “The big thing for me and my team is that they have everything they need to move forward with their meeting.”

That means having some hard copies of a presentation on hand and sending participants presentation links so they can follow the idea on a smart phone if the power goes out. Having alternative activities like team-building exercises in mind can also fill the gap until the tech kicks back in.

Feed the beast … safely

Add nut allergies, lactose intolerance and vegetarianism to the gluten-free diet trend and you’ve got a pretty diverse group of eaters.

To avoid sick or starving guests, ask employees about their dietary preferences before confirming catering options and make sure the caterer can accommodate all diets.

Also, when setting a meal budget, talk to your caterer about having snacks or drinks on hand in the event that a presenter shows up late. The group will be much more forgiving and willing to wait for the speech if they have something in their stomachs.

“If the meal depends on the keynote and they’re late, the best way to handle it is to make sure everyone’s had something to eat,” said Jenny Larson, associate director of University of Northern Colorado Catering.

Plenty of guests, no rooms

Imagine it. The event’s planned, entertainment booked, flights secured. You arrive at the hotel and, oops, it looks like either you or your boss is sleeping in the lobby.

“For the last four months we’ve been 95-percent-plus, if not sold-out, every single night,” Gumm said. “There’s been many times where a meeting planner comes to me and says, ‘We don’t have a reservation for the boss.’”

While a hotel will work to find a room, they can’t ask other guests to leave. To avoid this situation, Gumm recommends confirming room arrangements at least a month before the event.


Planes, trains, automobiles and vespas. It’s amazing what a nightmare transportation can be in our mobile society.

Amazingly, sometimes when it comes to event planning, transportation is an after-thought.

Know where your guests can park, how many cars the parking lot can accommodate and how long they can stay. If parking is tight, look for other options before booking the venue.

“You may want to bus people over from another center or suggest carpooling,” Gottula said.

If parking is sufficient, check out costs. Warn employees if you’re not picking up parking tabs. Also, let them know if it’s a cash-only lot.

If your event extends into cocktail hour, but isn’t an overnight stay, alert area taxi services. You can also hire a bus service to leaving every half an hour to get employees back to a home base. Valet services are a more expensive option, but provide door-to-door service.

Unpredictable weather

A blinding snow in April or even May? It can happen. Before signing on with an event planner or venue, ask if the contract gives some measure of protection in the event of a freak snowstorm or other natural disaster.

“If you’re spending $20,000 for a meeting that ends up not happening because of a 10-foot blizzard, that’s when you want event insurance,” Gumm said.

It’s just one more item to check with your provider before booking your event.


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