Know what I hate? Surprises.

I realize that makes me sound like a killjoy, but in the event planning business a surprise is the last thing you want, even though they are inevitable.

Event coordinators spend several months, sometimes years, coordinating and planning events that last only hours. After all this time, effort, brain power and expense, when the event begins I do not want any last-minute changes. Yes, they happen, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them!

Surprises have a way of causing a great deal of stress and possible panic, all because you now only have minutes to adjust something you have been working on for months.

Normally, as the authority and leader at the event, the event coordinator can shut down the surprise by turning down the request. However, sometimes you do not have the authority to say no. Often it’s because it involves a celebrity or extremely wealthy individual, often with their own security team.

Planning for snipers?

Several years ago, while doing a retirement party for a long time Microsoft employee, I received word 15 minutes prior to the event that Bill Gates would be attending the meeting. I was given an agenda by security with no exact time of arrival and was told to make sure no one knew about his attendance. This was all to ensure his safety.

At another event, we had to reconfigure the entire layout of the venue 30 minutes before it started. The security team felt they wouldn’t be able to keep the VIP safe with the current setup. How often in planning events do you have to consider sniper positions? I can tell you it happens more often than you would think.

Balancing safety and a successful event

What do you to secure the safety of the VIP as well as maintain the safety of a successful event? You roll with it and make it happen!

As the event planner you should know every detail, doorway, entrance, and exit, and the overall agenda of the event, enabling you to problem solve and adjust to the needs and demands of these celebrities and their security.

Most of the time the individuals and their security team are only coming in to make an appearance and then getting out of the event ASAP. The longer they stay the longer their safety is compromised.

If you find yourself facing a surprise celebrity appearance, there are two things I want you to know:

  1. Clients at these events have always been very understanding of the changes that need to be made in order for the corporate celebrity to appear. As long as communication is happening between key people, the surprise is probably going to be welcomed.
  2. The guests at the event are almost always very excited when the celebrity arrives, which makes the event is even more of a success.

Most of my experience has been with corporate events, so I’m sure there are other events where the celebrities and their security were not as welcome.

As an event planner, I still don’t like last minute surprises. However, with the right response, attitude, and focus, sometimes surprises can take the event to another level of success. That means your client is happy, the celebrity and their security are happy, and the guests at the event are elated.

Plus it’s always cool to go home with a story about meeting and working with a well-known celebrity.