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Event Pros on Their Biggest Fears—and How They Avoid Disaster

Planners, producers, and other industry professionals share their event-day nightmares and the real-world solutions they implement as protection.

By Alesandra Dubin July 13, 2015, 7:00 AM EDT

Event professionals cite weather problems, technology failures, check-in confusion, and red carpet disorganization as among the issues that keep them up at night.

Photo: Theo Wargo/USA Network

“[My fear is] losing my phone or running out of power. I only wear clothes with pockets and use a retractable lanyard for my phone, and also carry a charging stick in my pocket. [I also worry that] I will run out of space on my phone to take photos for social media, [so] I upload all of my photos to Dropbox before an event and delete everything [from my device].”
Lori Riviere, owner, the Riviere Agency, New York

“My biggest fear is ensuring that product is delivered and picked up on time. I deal with this by confirming tracking numbers and following up. And following up again. [Another] big fear is talent arrival and familiarity with content and speaking points. I deal with this by scheduling a briefing call with the PR rep or manager and talent prior to the event to review materials, and confirm arrival times as well as role and appropriate dress. I also like to schedule a short refresh briefing on site at the event, and I like to require that talent is ideally in location on the evening before. ”
Leah Rosenfeld, vice president of events, Zeno Group, Chicago

“A fear I have is managing the check-in process. The fear is that people will show up without R.S.V.P.ing, or that my door staff will not find the guest's name in a timely manner. To ensure my list is super organized, I alphabetize by first name. I create tabs based on the alphabet and let my staff have [the list] a few days before so that they can learn the order.”
Marina Vorobyev, founder, Spector Communications, New York

“Our event manager's father passed away on the very day of one of our biggest fund-raising events. It was obviously absolutely heartbreaking for my colleague and her family and in turn our team, but it's also completely changed the way I now plan events. I don't want to say that anyone should have a catastrophist mentality, but luckily because we were a team of planners, we were able to get our event manager a grievance flight home, have her luggage sent to her parents' home, her dog boarded, and her fed, accompanied, and driven to the airport—all while covering and executing the event, despite how upset all of us were. Now, when planning and executing events I always think, 'God forbid something like that should happen again, do I have an emergency contact list and can I ensure that someone, anyone, will be taken care of if a tragedy should occur?'”
Anonymous planner

“I'm working with a new chef for a fitness event and there are weeks that go by without response to emails. I had a nightmare that he didn't show up and that I was stuck making quick paleo meals on the fly. It's hard to manage the fear without becoming even more neurotic [but] … I’ve made up a list of quick paleo dishes that I can make [myself] if i don't get a response from him [two days prior to the event].”
Krishna Davenport, founder, Baobab Wellness, New York

“[I fear] that when I leave the four-tier, 100-pound cake with delicate details with the venue, it doesn't get handled the way I specifically instructed them to handle it and I'm left with a very cranky client. Now I have a clause in my contract that my liability ends when the cake arrives at the venue, and I write out the instructions for the venue to follow to keep it in optimal condition. I also always take pics upon set up and delivery.”
Arlene Altschuler, owner, Polkadot Cupcake Shop, Hawthorne, New Jersey

“My biggest fear is weather if I have an outside event with no tent backup. A few years ago at a huge Super Bowl party in Miami, we had a storm out of nowhere, with no tent, so I ran around getting a bunch of umbrellas for talent so they would stop and do media. When talent wasn’t using the umbrellas, I did my best to make sure the media was not getting washed away. [Now] if there’s no tent as a backup, I ask the event producer what plan B is—and ask for umbrellas.”
Stacey Wechsler-Manasco, owner, Hired Gun Publicity & Consulting, Palm Beach, Florida

“For the fear that other vendors won't show up to do their job, the solution [is to] send along the schedule of the day to everyone, [and to] take it a step further and send confirmation emails requiring a response. Send it a week in advance, follow up the week of the event, and then call if needed. Also, always collect the cell phones of all vendors well in advance. [Another] fear [is that] I'll have a wardrobe malfunction. It happened to me—my shoe broke in the middle of an event. Always have an extra full outfit in an office or car trunk somewhere. [For the fear of not getting paid for] social events and weddings, always collect all money up front including a back-up credit card for damages. Payment within 10 days must be a credit card or a certified check, no exceptions.”
Meghan Ely, principal, OFD Consulting, Richmond, Virginia

“One of our biggest fears is that some of our [rental] collection will get damaged in transport. We do our best to pack and secure everything appropriately, but accidents happen. To help mitigate this, each of our crews carries what we call a go box, which contains more than 40 different items, including hammers, hardware, mini pots of paint, zip ties, magic erasers, and more. With up to three crews out at one time, putting these boxes together was an investment, but they have come in handy. Sometimes a go box just isn’t enough, and in those situations we have empowered our crew leads to make whatever decision is necessary to make things right with the client. They have the ability to make the executive decision to go to a local hardware store for additional materials, offer a refund on a product, or whatever else the situation may demand—with no lag time of checking in with the bosses.”
Morgan Montgomery, co-owner, Paisley & Jade, Richmond, Virginia

“The biggest fear is the unknown [relating to] the attendee list. Not being able to control when, or even if, guests arrive can be a planner’s biggest challenge because it can take a well-planned event and make it look otherwise due to the shortage or overwhelming amount of guests. The best solution is to create R.S.V.P. accountability by reconfirming [guests'] attendance or, if applicable, charging an admissions fee to insure the guests are following through on their commitment.”
Christy Bareijsza, C.E.O. and founder, Events by Red Carpet, New York

“Red carpets events are... tense, and one of the biggest concerns I have is that an important executive will be missing from the face sheet we distribute to the photographers and media. The photogs will be asking, ‘Who is that?', the executive overhears and passes along his concern of his PR team being unprepared, and voila: You've got a mini fire that needs to be put out. I over-check face sheets and take a careful count. [If an unexpected exec shows up], we would explain we weren't aware they'd be on site, so we didn't include in our press materials, then immediately coordinate shots of the whole group [as well as the exec] solo, and make sure that every photographer in the room knows their name. We'll [also] have someone from the team email the photogs on site immediately with their fully spelled-out name, and I would verbally tell each and every one of them that we have a very important additional executive in the room to note.”
Alexandra Taylor, account supervisor, LFB Media Group, New York

“As most of our events are celebrity-driven, I always fear that no one will show up. That, of course, never happens, but I do everything in my power to ensure it doesn’t. I am calling, texting, emailing, coordinating with talent and their reps to the very minute until the event starts—even during the event so I know what time they will be there walking the carpet and posing for photos. I always do fear about my iPhone losing its juice so I always carry a battery back that can charge my phone fully four times over. Overkill, but you never know—and in case someone else on my team loses battery, they can borrow my pack. Another one of the biggest fears is if my iPhone doesn’t have service at an event, so I always make sure to test it the day before to make sure I can send and receive emails as well as texts. My last big fear is [for] my own health. You never want to be sick the day of an event, so I make sure I am taking my vitamins daily and exercising regularly prior to the event. I also try to eat as clean as possible leading up to the event—less fast food, more kale.”
Rembrandt Flores, co-founder, EFG: Entertainment Fusion Group, Los Angeles

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