An essential skill for an event planner is handling situations that could torpedo the event, especially last-minute ones. We checked in with two event planners who deftly managed what could have been catastrophic for their top fundraisers.
Carla May Paré, the manager of major events and special projects at the Knoxville Museum of Art, was confronted with electrical power disruptions just a few hours before L’Amour du Vin, a significant event for the museum that attracts major donors and supporters.
A circuit breaker kept tripping and shutting down the equipment in the kitchen. The featured chef for the event was scheduled to arrive that afternoon to begin preparations for the meal, which is a highly anticipated one at L’Amour du Vin.
Paré had basic knowledge of the museum’s electrical design and components, but she noted, “I am not an electrician and knew right away I needed expert help and quickly.”
“Every piece of equipment was needed to prepare dinner and eliminating any of it was not an option,” she said.
Paré placed a call to All Occasions Party Rentals’ licensed electrician, who arrived within 20 minutes – “Really!” she said – and worked with the museum’s maintenance technician to install a power box that would better distribute power and stop the circuit breaker from tripping.
“This was done quickly enough that the equipment was still preheated in time for the featured chef’s arrival,” she said.
The situation was managed because Paré was at the venue early that day to prepare for the evening event and had a reliable network of people to call in an emergency.
“Knowing when you should ask for help and being prepared for who to direct questions to is vital to managing a potential crisis,” Paré said.
Courtney Kliman, marketing coordinator for Young-Williams Animal Center, faced a decision of a different sort because her event was outdoors.
Kliman planned her first major fundraiser in 2015, an invitation-only benefit at a private residence.
The event was on a Friday evening in September, which meant Kliman had to deal with, as she put it: “THE STINKIN’ WEATHER!”
“Growing up in East Tennessee, I should’ve recalled that we have four seasons … sometimes in ONE DAY!” Kliman said. “I actually cancelled our tent orders Thursday evening, because the weather forecast called for less than 20 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, after 9 p.m.
“However, a small rainstorm rolled in right as we were setting up the silent auction tables. I had to cover the paper products with sheets. Thankfully, it just sprinkled, averting a miniature crisis.
“However, three hours later, as the dessert was served, an actual thunderstorm moved in. We had to transfer everything inside – which turned out to actually be even better, because it made the event more intimate.”
Kliman overcame the challenge of unpredictable weather; however, she won’t cancel a tent order again unless the forecast is 100 percent dry.
Spring and summer are a very busy time for event planners as they execute current events and get ready for the fall galas, dinners, parties and fundraisers.
We would love to hear from more planners about how you dealt with event challenges. Email your stories and solutions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.