As an event planner, I’m used to scrutinizing the details of a project, and coming up with plans to combat problems that arise. It’s my job to do everything I can to ensure a smooth and successful event. Usually I’m really great at this. Typically I’m able to mitigate problems down to be a non-issue, and my client usually doesn’t know how many I solve. But there’s one thing I just can’t control, and that’s the weather. This is an important event planning lesson.
Last weekend I had a Grand Opening event for a new development, Salisbury Village in Sherwood Park. The planning team had been working on the event for months and there was no way to know when we chose the date that it would be the worst day within a week either side, weather-wise. A couple days before the actual event, it became apparent that we would be looking at less than ideal conditions.
It was a public event and we had already put so much marketing out there that couldn’t just be taken back, so we made the decision to go ahead with the event rain or shine. We put some plans in place to make sure the ceremonial ribbon cutting could still happen without rain pouring down on the photo opp, or light pop up tents blowing around in the wind in the middle of it. We couldn’t move inside because there wasn’t a space in the community for it, but we ordered a better frame tent and told our staff to dress for a chilly day. But we were still hopeful that the weather would clear.
When I arrived at the venue on the morning of the event, I knew it was going to be a challenging day. It was pouring rain and there was water and mud everywhere. But I went on with my event plan, and did what I could to make things work.
It quickly became apparent that my set up schedule might have been ok, except that everything just takes twice as long in the rain. Putting up tents was more difficult when they were slippery with water. I had to reassess plans for vendors that should have just been easy to tell where to set up, then leave them alone. So I was behind, and I was more disorganized than I usually like to be.
This event did not go quite as smoothly as I would’ve wanted (not to mention I was soaked head to foot and freezing), so that was a frustrating experience. But the fact is that we still had lots of people show up, especially given the weather. Some things didn’t work as well as I would’ve liked, but no matter what motivation you give people, there are just very few that are open to walking around outside in the autumn rain.
Those that did come out to the event seemed to really enjoy experiencing the area, and the ceremonial ribbon cutting was delightful. Despite the weather, there were smiles all around and so many kind words about this new community.
It’s important to learn this event planning lesson. You can’t control everything. You have to do what you can to control what you can, but also know that you can’t fix it all. At a certain point, things are what they are and you have to be ok with doing the best you can and making the event work under the given circumstances.
What is your best example of this event planning lesson – where you learn you can’t control everything? Let me know in the comments!