Let’s talk about the obvious one first. When everything is falling apart, it might feel like sitting in a fetal position and swing back and forth, but it is important to keep it cool. You’re the captain here, if you start panicking then everyone will know the ship is sinking. They might have seen the iceberg hit, but if the crew doesn’t panic then the passengers will assume it wasn’t so serious after all.
Stay in control
We’re not trying to reinforce the first point here. What we mean by ‘staying in control’ is don’t let someone else take charge. It might be easy in a tight situation to let your assistant do the job or for the speaker to inflate their ego by acting the hero, but never forget it is your responsibility. If they make things go from bad to worse, you’ll still get blamed.
When things go awry, we have to find a solution fast and, more often than not, the quickest fix won’t look like what we had envisioned in the beginning. As a perfectionist myself, I understand how hard it can be to change plans in a moments notice, but if the intention is to solve the issue then we must be flexible. Done is always better than perfect and not done.
What went wrong? The million pound question. A doctor can’t prescribe a medication if they don’t know the disease that was bothering the patient. You may find out that someone made a huge mistake during this process. Save the reprimands for later.
There’s no time to waste. The longer the speaker goes without a microphone then the more likely it is that people will get bored or upset and in today’s age when everyone has got a smartphone that can upload a 140 characters critique to the internet in the blink of an eye, that’s bad news.
Communicate honestly and clearly
Time magazine’s cover of the first days of Donald Trump as president come to mind. Even if what’s going wrong is something that’s easy to cover up, don’t lie. It might seem like a cheap price to pay for getting out, but if the lie gets figured out then you’ll be charged twice. Simply put, nobody wants to work with an event planner with a reputation for lying.
At the same time, try to announce the solution along with the problem. Again, going back to Titanic, nobody wants to hear: ‘The ship is sinking and there are not enough boats.’ If the problem is a malfunctioning microphone, for example, try saying something like ‘The microphone died, but a new one will be here shortly.’
Finally, try to have a sense of humour about it
Again, easier said than done, but there’s nothing like a good sense of humour to take the edge off the situation. It will not only relax those around you, but it will also make you less tense. Don’t take things so seriously.