How to Handle a Last Minute Change in Your Event

If you’re in the events business, you know your job is to solve every problem that comes up without letting any of your guests or attendees notice a thing. With most things that come up, this is easy – but sometimes, you’ll run into vendors who drop the ball so hard that it breaks the concrete, and it’s on your shoulders to figure it out.

What do you do when a vendor no-shows, cancels last minute or makes a drastic change that impacts your event?

First things first – calm down. Take this opportunity to lead the pack in figuring out a plan. Character shines through adversity, so let it shine! Then, determine if it’s something that can be easily replaced or if the changes are going to completely revamp the gameplan.

Be Resourceful

If there is just one element that needs to be replaced, then the name of the game is ‘resourcefulness’. 

Most of the basic vendors are easily replaceable due to the saturation in the market - whether that be a venue, a caterer, a bar. With that, it just takes Google and grit. 

  • Call every caterer or restaurant you can find on the web until you find that vendor who can accommodate a last-minute change.
  • It helps to bring in reinforcements to help you call around as well, whether it’s another co-worker or your friend. Divide and conquer until it’s solved.
  • Be positive in the fact that you will get it solved regardless of the situation. Do not get discouraged!

If the vendor cannot be easily replaced, such as a performer or speaker, then things are a little stickier. Take the advice listed above, and add some creative flair. Here are resources that can help you find a trustworthy replacement.

  • Keynote or Motivational Speakers – Replacing a keynote your team vetted and was excited about can be a challenge, but if you find someone who can uphold the same impact, you’re good. Nobleer Event Production represents keynotes across the United States and can help source trustworthy speakers for the conference.
  • Comedians – There are various Private Comedians you can hire to come in to do a special for the group. Contact your local comedy venue to get in touch with their talent agents and explore private performance options. 
  • Musical Performances - Similar to a Comedian, local concert venues have booking agents that have the contacts you’re looking for. Put your cold calling pants on and pick up the phone.

Be Creative

If your main showcase gets turned on its head, then it’s time to get creative.

In this scenario, the first thing you need to decide is where are we pivoting. What’s the new plan?

Here’s an example to help inspire you - 

In planning a National Sales Meeting for a Fortune 250 company, the team event was set for a private dinner followed by a comedy show hosted by a famous comedian. The day before everyone flew in from around the country, the comedy club changed the comedian to someone whose primary source of humor was from his stories of smoking weed. Nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t necessarily the most appropriate for a corporate team-building event.

We had one day to pivot for 120 people. Given the time of year, we landed on extending the venue rental for dinner and bringing in a casino company to throw a Haunted Casino Party. Since everyone was traveling in from out of town, we purchased about 100 witch hats and mini costume accessories for people to “dress up”, had the bar put dry ice in drinks, and decorated the whole venue with spooky ghouls and goblins. Everyone had a great time!

Ultimately, you must use what you have available and take advantage of the vendors that you already have to help fill the gap. We would recommend starting with your Venue Coordinator. 

The Venue Coordinator has seen what events and activities have taken place in the same space, and they will be able to connect you with the right people to bring an idea like the one in the example to life. 

With all of this said, the key to a big shift like this is communication. Communicate the change of plans directly to all attendees as soon as the decision to pivot is made and locked in. Setting the right expectations and giving an explanation is always the right way to go, otherwise, people will be disappointed and confused as to why things changed without an explanation. 

Good luck, and remember, stay calm and embrace the craziness that is event management! 

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