Bring Extra Zip Ties: The Art of the Contingency and Minimizing Event Failures

July 08 2015

A couple of years ago, SpinGo exhibited at a major trade show that attracted hundreds of attendees from all around the world. As we set up our booth before the start of the event, tensions were running high from the conference event coordinators. They were grappling with the latest setback: a pair of gigantic banners needed to be posted in the main meeting hall, but the event staff had no way to hang them.

Now let me just briefly describe how SpinGo does trade shows. We approach them the same way we produce events. We forgo the typical table + chairs + pipe and drape look. Instead, we opt for a more event-y setup with sleek computer monitors, a massive TV, and stage lights—all framed within a sturdy truss system.

 

The SpinGo Trade Show Booth

 

The completed design may look simple, but it’s actually quite an intricate process to get everything wired and working together. To pull it off, we bring extra gear: backup power cords, a variety of adapters, backups of backup cords, and loads of zip ties.

Those extra zip ties came into play that day during the trade show. We had plenty to spare, and the event coordinators were able to use them to hang their banners.

 

Being aware of what might go wrong and planning for those setbacks is what I call the Art of the Contingency, and it’s something every event maker—no matter the size of the event—can put into practice to minimize failures. 

 

This “contingency plan” mentality at SpinGo has trickled down from our founder and CEO, Kreg Peeler, who has produced countless events. Over the years he’s witnessed a number of event failures, and that’s why he doesn’t rely on anything he can’t control himself.

Power failures? Bring a backup generator. Congested conference wifi? Purchase a few different data plans. A variety of screws but only one screw driver? Bring a tool set. Gigantic banners need hanging? Bring extra zip ties.

Being aware of what might go wrong and planning for those setbacks is what I call the Art of the Contingency, and it’s something every event maker—no matter the size of the event—can put into practice to minimize failures. Here are the key principles:

1.  Identify potential weaknesses.

I once asked Kreg how he decides which backup items to bring. He told me that before event day, he mentally runs through a variety of scenarios where things might go wrong. He counters those potential pitfalls by strengthening any weakness with backup solutions. If there’s ever a time to sweat the small stuff, this is it.

 

Sweating the small stuff is part of the Art of the Contingency

 

2.  Use commander’s intent and be prepared to improvise.

Sometimes you just don’t have a contingency. No matter how prepared you are, something will go wrong. And when it all hits the fan, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, get creative, and use commander’s intent.

In military terms, commander’s intent is a clear definition of the purpose of the operation and the military end state. And when every soldier understands the purpose, they are free to accomplish that mission by any means necessary. Instead of being paralyzed by indecision when things go south (as they inevitably do), they can improvise and find creative ways to complete the mission, without waiting for different orders.

When event coordinators and producers have a clear vision for the event, you and your contractors, volunteers, and employees will have the freedom and flexibility to fulfill that vision in whatever way that works.

 

SpinGo event setup

 

There’s a certain thrill that comes with creating an event, and someone who has never put one on can’t understand what it feels like.

3.  Have fun.

Making events happen is a high stress job. It’s a race against the clock, while setbacks hit you from all directions. But the show must go on. Just remember that you signed up for this, and you thrive on it. There’s a certain thrill that comes with creating an event, and someone who has never put one on can’t understand what it feels like. So don’t forget to have some fun.

The Art of the Contingency becomes second nature over time. Put it into practice, and you’ll soon be able to foresee future mishaps and better prepare yourself and your staff to overcome them.

SpinGo founder and CEO setting up an event and doing his thing

 

A couple of months following the particular trade show mentioned earlier, we were setting up our booth at another one. I pulled out a pack of trusty zip ties to secure some of our own banners. I tugged the first zip tie tight, but it just snapped. I tried a second one. Snap! A third. Snap!

Oh, snap. Not good.

For some reason, this entire batch was brittle and completely worthless. I looked to Kreg for help, and he saw what was happening. In typical Kreg fashion, he just smiled and pulled out another bag. It was a different brand, a different manufacturer.

And we were back in business.