3 things that can go wrong with your business events (and how we coped)


The strong person is not the one who never falls, but the one who falls and then gets up again”. This has to be one of the most popular and less original aphorisms in existence. The fact that this is a platitude, however, doesn’t stop it from being true. You can apply this principle to most fields and we, of course, have observed it to be accurate in the events industry in particular. A good event professional is not the one who never had to face anything unexpected or whose plans never encountered setbacks , but rather the one that can always keep things under control and manage any unforeseen circumstance with little or no notice. The event planner who has never taken a blow…is a liar, trust me. Unwelcome surprises can come in many shapes: from natural disasters to human error, from changeable weather to last-minute schedule changes. We have collected quite a few event planners’ horror stories in our time and today we want to share three of our experiences in this regard. This post analyses three situations in which we had to think creatively in order to solve last-minute problems.

1. (Someone else’s) human error

Team building projects are one of our most popular services – and we also love to write about it. Planning a team building service allows us to be creative, but it often involves coordinating an army of extremely diverse assets and collaborators. Often the materials that we use for our projects are customised and can’t be bought: we need to supervise their production and delivery, as well as their use. One of our recent projects involved a large crossword puzzle, printed on a series of posters. Nothing particularly fancy: we just needed to commission the printing of a scheme on several large sheets of paper, what could possibly go wrong? Easy as winking, until we realised, as the task was in progress, that not everything had gone as planned. All schemes, for no apparent reason, had an extra row at the bottom of the scheme. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but still a fault that needed to be fixed.

What to do

The smart event pro always carries a basic kit made of scissors, rulers and duct tape, even when they can’t foresee any situation in which they will have need for such tools. Having the essentials ready at hand allows us to solve the problem before the client even noticed there was one.

Why it happened

Sometimes things go wrong for no real reason. How can an image file, that has been checked and sent to a professional print shop, grow an extra row of letters that the designer did not put there? Your guess is as good as ours.

How to make sure it doesn’t happen again

Triple-check everything, even things that, by any reasonable standard, don’t need to be triple-checked. In this case, even though the file had been checked several times before being sent out to the printer, it proved necessary to check that not only the size and the quality of the individual prints were satisfactory, but also that the outcome was identical to the original down to the tiniest detail.

2. The mysterious breakdown

When you think of something breaking down, the images that come to your mind are probably those of audio and video system malfunctioning and of electronic equipment acting up. All those however are usually rented and they tend to come with a special assistance service, which will be at hand to solve whatever happens to be the problem. Video projectors and computers are not the only things that get mysteriously broken as you are peacefully trying to go about your business though. everything can break down. And, most importantly, it wants to. This happened to be particularly true of the chocolate fountain that a client wanted to be the centrepiece of his catering. Such a peculiar piece of equipment could, hypothetically, be intact and perfectly functioning as it is loaded onto a van, but mysteriously unable to stand on its own once it reached its destination.

What to do

If there’s no time to return the faulty piece of equipment and get a new one, unleash your inner MacGyver and try to work with what you have. There will be time to complain after the event, but in the meantime the client still needs to get what they paid for. This was not something we could fix with duct tape and scissors, so we had to look around. It is a scientific fact that where there’s a catering, there’s wine. Plenty of bottles of it. This usually means corks (which in Italy are often actual corks, made of – you know – cork). We used four of those, carefully wrapped in linen, to fix the base of our chocolate fountain by building a makeshift white, virtually undetectable plinth. This type of situation will always present you with very specific needs, which are likely to be totally different from the one we have just depicted, but the skills you will need to hone are pretty much the same: imagination and practicality.

How to make sure it doesn’t happen again

Every time a complex piece of equipment is needed, you should enquire into emergency procedure and assistance policies in case of malfunctioning. This is not just about insurance – which pays you back after the disaster – this is about plan B. Always make sure that the company you are working with has emergency procedures in place, offering assistance and courtesy equipment. And since one back up plan might not be enough always have more than one. For instance, have several providers of each service on speed dial at any given time and keep the closest contact with those that have proven most efficient in an emergency.

Planning an event in Italy? We will plan against anything that could go wrong, so you don't have to. And we will find you a great venue too.

3. Unforeseen accidents and weather forecast (an events planner’s nemesis)

You will find yourself planning events months ahead, particularly when incentive travel or team building are involved, as they require to have groups of people traveling together with the subsequent need for accommodation and transport bookings. Among the team building activities that we offer as part of our service, the cardboard boat race has long been the most popular. It is a simple and enjoyable way of encouraging teamwork and it has two main requirements: a large body of water and complete absence of rain. Since, as we have established, this kind of project usually gets planned weeks or months in advance, there is always a risk that, as the day of the event approaches, the weather forecast might make it look like a terrible idea. Such was the case on a team building weekend we had planned: on the day before the cardboard boat race, the local weather forecast announced a stormy morning followed by a sunny afternoon. The boat race, it goes without saying, was planned for the morning

What to do

In our case, keeping our cool and having a flexible organisation helped enormously. On team building weekends we usually book a hotel or resort and we make use of several of the services these facilities offer. On that occasion, we managed to postpone a meeting in the main hall, so that it was at our disposal the whole morning, to build cardboard boats indoors. This allowed us to enjoy a rain-free and lovely afternoon on the lake.

How to make sure it doesn’t happen again

You can’t, really. If you had enough sense not to book a day at the beach in winter or wintersports in the heat of summer, you have done more than your share for the cause and now you can but hope. Being flexible, generally speaking, will open several doors for you.

Do you need help planning your event in Italy? Contact us!

contatta-smart-eventi-1 Are you thinking of organising your event in Italy? Talk to us! Call us at +39 02/97381544 or email at info@italianbusinesstips.com
referenze-smart-eventi-1 Check out our portfolio HERE.

Newsletter Subscription

Privacy Policy and I consent to process my personal information for promotional purposes, as stated in point 2) of Privacy Policy (required)

Related Articles

About author View all posts


She is a part-time digital nomad. She would go full-time, if only she could stay away from Berlin for long enough without pining for a Pretzel. She was born in Italy and she enjoys life as an expat, but visits home often enough and can still remember how to bake a perfect lasagna. She is passionate about writing, marketing, languages and the systematic demolition of cultural stereotypes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *