As event managers there are so many parts of our job that are completely out of our control and we often have to make in-the-moment decisions based on little available information. I recently experienced that first hand, when an hour before our client’s event was scheduled to begin, the power in the building went out. Our team had to think quickly as power was necessary for the event to function.

Below is the story of how we handled this crisis situation.

5:05 PM: Really? The lights are out? Are you sure? Can they be turned back on? We had our moment of panic, thinking “is this really happening right now?”

5:06 PM: After the realization that the lights weren’t just coming right back on had sunk in, the first step was to contact building maintenance to determine if a breaker had been blown or if there was some other reason this might just be an issue in our building. This was definitely a possibility as we were using a lot of power for the production of the show and the venue we were in was a community centre gymnasium and not typically used for large scale events. The maintenance staff made their way to the breaker panel and determined it was not a blown breaker or other building specific failure.

5:10 PM: The next logical thought was that perhaps we weren’t the only ones affected by the power outage. We got on our phones and determined that it was an area wide power outage.

5:15 PM: Realizing that we had no control over when the power would come back on, we had to take matters into our own hands. We knew that we needed power and needed it in 45 minutes. We needed a quick solution.

5:18 PM: After a few minutes of brainstorming amongst our team we determined that we would go out and buy a generator. We got in touch with our audiovisual supplier to determine the power requirements for basic sound and lighting, so that we knew it would work when we got back. A member of our team went out to purchase the generator, while we sat in the dark (we did have emergency lighting in the facility) praying for the power to come back on.

5:45 PM: At fifteen minutes until the event was about to start the generator was just minutes away. It was going to be a rush to set it up, but the technical team prepared so that they just had to plug the AV straight into the generator and we would be back in action within minutes of its arrival.

5:50 PM: Just as our team member was pulling up with the generator, the power came back on. With ten minutes until the program was about to start the event angels had finally heard us calling!

Through all of this it was important to keep everyone informed. This meant letting them know when you have a plan, when that plan has been set into action, any updates to that plan, and finally letting them know once the problem has been solved.

This gives everyone reassurance that you are actively working towards a solution and helps them understand how they can help. Even if you are not available to communicate with everyone yourself, make sure to send a team member to update the rest of your group.

It is also worth mentioning that in a crisis situation like this you can’t waste any time. In this case we knew we needed a solution and we did not even take the time to ask our client to approve the cost of a generator – we just acted.

When a crisis happens, the best results will come when you think quickly, use the collective knowledge of your team and be solution focused.