Expect the best, plan for the worst

    Today, I woke up a bit early and got out to an event we had in Kapolei. A simple groundbreaking event, set up the tent in the construction area, as shown on the layout, drop the chairs facing the podium, and put up a wall or two to block the wind. Simple.

    But sometimes the simplest things turn out to be not so easy.

    First, we got out to site at 7:03am. Perfect timing. But looking across the field and comparing it to the layout we held in our hands revealed one small detail that couldn’t be captured by the satellite camera angle of google earth… the dark green area we were supposed to set up was not a nice grassy field ready to break ground, but rather a shrubby, bushy, thorny, overgrown couple of acres. A few calls to the multiple event coordinators revealed that they hadn’t seen the venue in a few months, so the bare dirt that it was in Springtime had now mutated into this tangled mess.

    There was one spot on the entire acreage that was already rough-chopped to a semi-reasonable length, and so one coordinator instructed us to set up there. However, an hour later, when the tent was in the air and almost locked down, another coordinator came down and overruled that decision, requesting that the tent be moved to the other end of the street, 1,000 feet away, and onto cement.

    Rolling with the changes, we – along with a great crew of volunteers – used all available vehicles to move the tables, chairs, linens, etc quickly to the other end of the road, and then we carried the tent over, fully built, and just dropped it into place where it needed to go. In the meantime, a second crew from our shop was filling water barrels and ran them out to site, to weigh down the tent.

    By 10:45am, almost 4 hours after we had arrived, we were fully set. Tent up, chairs down, all ready for the guests to arrive at 11.

    This served as a great reminder to me of an extremely important key in planning an event. HAVE A PLAN B. In this particular case, there were a couple of times that having or creating a plan B were critical to us getting this job done on time. The first was starting the day early and allocating extra time for stuff “just in case”. The second was thinking of the “what-if’s” (aka worst-case scenarios), and planning a solution for those.

    1. Just in Case
    The original plan was to start the day at 6am, arrive on site at 7am, build the tent until 8am, set the chairs, tables, linens until 8:30am, guest arrival at… 11am. That gave us nearly 2.5 hours “just in case”. Just in case guys were late, just in case we hit traffic, just in case we got a flat tire, just in case we got lost, just in case there were missing or add-on items, just in case. And in this example, we needed all the time we could get. Getting there early didn’t necessarily save the day, but it did allow us to be able to adapt to the changing circumstances and not feel overly rushed or stressed out through the entire event. And that allowed our clients to feel calm and in control as well, because even though some of the circumstances were stressful, they had time to think out a clear strategy and come to sound, thoughtful decisions.

    2. What If
    I love to think of “what-if’s”. I do it so often it comes pretty naturally, and that’s a great thing when it comes to planning events. As I was driving in this morning, I was thinking of what I’d do if the crew wasn’t in yet. The answer was that I would just drive out myself and get a secondary crew later if need be. After all, we had an extra 2.5 hrs built into the job timeline as a hedge. But all the crew was in, and we left on time without a hitch. Then when I got to site, and saw the space we were supposed to set in, I thought what if they wanted to change where we were initially told to set up? So I called our warehouse to ask them to begin to prepare those water barrels, just in case the client decided to move to the cement. So that when they did decide to ultimate move the tent, we could call in for that add-on, and while we moved the equipment over, the barrels made their way to the site, arriving in perfect timing to raise the tent and finish the job efficiently and in time for guest arrival.

    Planning ahead is not always efficient. It takes time and effort to think of the likely scenarios that may occur if actual events deviate from the original plan. But I cannot think of a better way to be fully prepared for an event and stay cool and in control no matter what happens.