If you find yourself committing any of these top mistakes, cancel your event and run away!
1. Holding events outdoors
Sure, it’s not exactly easy to have a surfing competition or a motorcycle enduro race indoors, but maybe you should come up with another event idea to ensure that you can actually pull it off. Any event that is held outside is going to be at the mercy of the elements and with Climate Change foisting all sorts of unexpected and unprecedented severe weather phenomena on our unsuspecting heads, your chances of getting rained, stormed, snowed, or flooded out are greater than ever. While setting your event indoors is no guarantee that a weather disaster is not going to wipe you out (witness the Calgary Saddledome) at least you’ll have some measure of protection for you and your attendees.
2. Spending advance ticket money
When you collect the payment for an advance ticket you are legally committing to presenting the event. If anything at all goes pear shaped and you end up in a position to have to provide for a full refund to the ticket buyer you had better not have spent that money or you’ll end up in court if you’re lucky and in jail if you’re not.
3. Failing to read the sacred entrails
If it’s three days before your huge arena event and you’ve sold three dozen tickets, it doesn’t take a psychic prognosticator to figure out that you’re going to crash and burn. If you ignore the obvious warning signs that your event is being itself ignored by the public, you’re in for a very rude surprise on event day.
4. Booking train-wreck stars/presenters
You don’t have to feature acknowledged late-starters such as Rihanna or Madonna in order to ruin your event, as you can readily accomplish that task with a bevy of other stars and presenters. Even in the ivory towers of academia you will find no shortage of individuals who figure that fashionably late equates to a few hours and can run your entire event into the ground. Don’t be dazzled by the apparent star value that any presenter can provide to your event as it will all be for naught if by the time they show up there are barely half a dozen attendees left waiting in the hall.
5. Hosting international attendees
Scientific, engineering, and academic conferences regularly attract a considerable percentage of their attendees from other countries, and in many cases that is a recipe for disaster. Not only can flights be delayed or cancelled, but even if your international guests actually make it to the USA they may run into the brick wall known as the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service. Entry of any foreign citizen into the country is strictly at the whim of the officer, and your attendee can be refused entry for any reason from a student drunk driving conviction to just the “fact” that they “act suspicious.”
6. Falling in love with your event
If you’re justifying your production of the event because “it will help people everywhere” you’re misleading yourself into a sorrowful trap. There is only ever one justification for an event and that’s to at least break even. It may be unromantic but either an event performs on a financial basis or it’s a failure. Period.
7. Not expecting the unexpected
There is no seasoned event organizer anywhere who cannot regale you with endless anecdotes of completely unexpected and often inexplicable kicks to the head which occurred during their events. There is no way to forecast that you’ll have a WiFi or electrical outage, the toilets will back up, a food preparer will have Hepatitis-A, transit systems will go on strike, a presenter will let loose a string of expletives, a gate will be left open which will let several thousand unpaid attendees enter, or any one of a zillion other event disasters. While there is no truly fool-proof way to be prepared for all of these outlandish eventualities, it certainly helps if your backup plans have backup plans.
Event organization is a treacherous minefield so be prepared for literally anything!