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DCM Communications

How To Handle Last-Minute Event Changes


Photo: Courtesy of N Street Village

You know that saying, “If something can go wrong, it will go wrong?” Well, it may be a pessimistic point of view, BUT it’s also a good reminder to always have a Plan B when it comes to planning an event. By being prepared (or at least considering) what could go wrong you’ll be better able to handle a crisis should one arise.

N Street Village, a Washington nonprofit providing services to homeless and low-income women, experienced this situation in February when all 800 seats for its 25th annual gala on March 14  sold out a month in advance. Normally one would think a sold out gala is great, however in this case the invites for individual seats hadn’t even been mailed yet. (All the tables had been reserved through sponsorships.) In order to accommodate more guests through mailed invites, the organization moved from the Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC to the Marriott Marquis just four weeks out.

“With each table you get certain seats, but if you don’t use all the seats, some sponsors will donate them back to the pool and either not use them or we’ll try to resell the seats,” said Stuart Elizabeth Allen, Chief Development Officer for the nonprofit. “I can’t assume [sponsors] will donate back a table though, so we realized we reached the capacity of the venue and needed to move.”

Allen worked with RJ Whyte Event Production on the logistics of moving venues, adjusting the room layout, and keeping the night’s program, which included a performance by Grammy-nominated singer Adra Day, on time. The team had visited the Marriott Marquis previously when scouting venues so the switch ran relatively smoothly once they confirmed the hotel’s availability on the gala date. Allen then updated the venue on the invites just days before they hit the mail to past donors and supporters who had already received the event’s Save the Date.

Adjusting Event Plans When Mother Nature Intervenes

Throwing another wrench in plans, Washington weather forecasters predicted a snow storm with four to eight inches to hit the ground the night before the gala. Though accumulation didn’t quite hit the levels expected, it did close many schools and local businesses.

“It was touch and go for a while, but we decided to move forward and thought maybe some people wouldn’t come out,” said Allen, who added that attendance reached nearly 900 that night. “We sent out an email [for guests to] ‘come as you are’ with snow boots welcome and some took us up on that, but many came as if it was another night.”

The gala set a new fundraising record bringing in $1.6 million from more than 100 sponsors, an inaugural silent auction and raffle that raised $100,000 onsite, and individual ticket sales.

Channing Muller is the principal and founder of DCM Communications. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through 1-1 and group consulting sessions. Channing has more than a 15 years of experience in the communications industry serving in top roles within marketing, magazine & web editorial, advertising, and business development for a variety of media, software, and PR companies both in the United States and internationally. She lives in Chattanooga with her chocolate lab Sully and rescue cat Gracie. Follow her on Instagram @ChanningMuller.