What to Do When an Event Goes Badly

When Murphy’s law is in full effect, follow these tips to turn that disastrous event around

What to Do When an Event Goes Badly

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You know when you have one of those days where everything goes wrong? No matter what you do, you can’t seem to turn it around. It is just a disaster from start to finish. Usually those are the days where I think I should just go home and go to bed because I really need a fresh start. Unfortunately I usually have to suck it up, stay at work and find some way to turn my day around. 

Every once and awhile this black cloud hovers over my work as well. And usually it is with a very large customer or a big event. Maybe I missed an important delivery or we gave them the wrong equipment. Or a truck breaks down and we are really late to arrive at the site. No matter what happened, the event is off to a rough start and we have to do our best to turn it around. 

Before anything else happens, it is so important to apologize and admit you made a mistake. Don’t try to blame a driver or a yard worker, even if it was their fault. Take the blame and just apologize profusely. Pointing the finger never solves anything, and honestly, it doesn’t matter who made the mistake. A mistake was made, and now you have to fix it.  

The best way to do this is to overcommunicate with the customer. Tell them everything you or your staff is doing. Either by email or by phone, keep them in the loop on how you are fixing the problem and turning this event around. Every delivery, every driver getting to the site, or attendant checking in, is an opportunity to keep the customer informed. Even if the news is bad news, like a delayed driver, it is important that they know everything. 

It is also really important to see this customer face-to-face. Mostly, you want to do this because it is more difficult for someone to be rude to your face. So take this opportunity to apologize again and show the customer how you are fixing what went wrong. For most event planners, they don’t want you to take up a ton of their time so this may only take a couple of minutes. But it will be worth the effort in the end. 

Lastly, ask for a wrap-up meeting after the event. Honestly, if the event went badly, it will be an awful meeting but it’s something you have to do, especially if you want a shot at keeping this customer. I call it “letting them get their pound of flesh.” They are going to criticize everything you do and usually they will ask a large group of their staff to sit in on the meeting. Those meetings are awful, and I have personally experienced a few of them in my years. But I knew it was something I needed to do. 

It is really important to remember that no one is perfect. We are all human and make mistakes at times. It can be hard in business to not dwell on the bad things, like the errors or the losses. You may not win everyone over, but if you keep your customer, then the groveling will have been worth it. 


About the author: Alexandra Townsend is co-owner of A Royal Flush, based in Philadelphia.



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