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It’s a fact of life – things can change at the last minute, including your association’s event attendees list. Rather than fight it – embrace it; expect the best but prepare for the worst. You need not panic if you find yourself in a position where you’ve just been informed of last-minute event attendees. With these seven steps, you’ll be fully prepared to accommodate these extra additions. 

1. Pad Your Event from the Start – Plan for Last-Minute Joiners

Padding things ahead of time is a no-brainer, and it’s easy to implement. You may already do this in other areas of your life. For instance, do you tell your friend who’s always late that dinner starts at 5 pm when actually you won’t be serving food until 5:30 pm?

By adding some buffer and padding the time for the friend who tends to run behind, you’re making things easier for everyone. Create a buffer/padding for your event. Set aside a predetermined number of spaces that can be used for last-minute registrants. That way, you’ve budgeted for the space and extra headcounts. 

2. Prepare Ahead of Time

We all know the feeling – it’s down to the wire of a deadline, and you’re still rushing around to get things done. How stressful is that? Too stressful. To the degree that you can, prepare everything that can be prepared ahead of time. Leave nothing to the last minute because things will always crop up! Do yourself the loving favor of working ahead of schedule. Your mental health and nervous system will thank you for it. 

Related: Speaker Management Strategies for Your Association Event Learn More >

3. Delegate Event Tasks

We often all try to do everything ourselves when there’s no need to make life that stressful and hard. No one is superwoman or superman, nor does that need to be an aspiration. You’re human; you require sleep, regular breaks, multiple meals, and regular hydration. You can’t be everywhere all at once, or the one handling everything.

Delegate projects to others on your team who can help you manage them. Lean on trustworthy colleagues who can support you and vice versa. And if something can be outsourced, outsource it (if it makes financial sense to do so).  

4. Dot Your I’s and Cross Your T’s 

To avoid miscalculations on attendees, make sure you review your registrant list and go through it with a fine-toothed comb. You’ll likely be using some sort of digital-based list, like a Google Drive sheet or an Excel spreadsheet, which makes accurate counting a cinch.

But even still, go through things closely to ensure no one has accidentally registered twice, or that someone who said they’d registered is on the list. By thoroughly reviewing who you have coming to the event, you’ll be more informed, more prepared, and ready to take on last-minute changes! 

Related: 6 Event Planning Lessons I Learned the Hard Way Learn More >

5. Pad Your Own Schedule

Embrace the beauty that is white space on the calendar. In addition to padding the event by leaving room for last-minute attendees, you should also pad your schedule to allow for the time needed to facilitate those last-minute joiners. Leaving white space or unscheduled time on your calendar allows not only for needed breaks and downtime – which allows you to be sharper later – you will also leave minutes or hours in the day for extra planning that may result from last-minute additional guests coming to the event. 

6. Set Aside Extra Cash for the Event

Having people join an association’s event at the last minute may require your organization to shell out some extra cash to prepare. Is the event catered? You will likely need to pay more for food if you’ve got more mouths to feed. Are you hosting a happy hour? Those extra bottles of wine aren’t going to buy themselves. Make sure you set some money aside in the budget to account for last-minute expenses. 

7. Give the Event Itself Your Focus

When the event finally rolls around, you may be juggling these last-minute tasks, like increasing the number of people who need catering, creating an extra welcome package for new registrants, etc. The lead-up to an association’s event can be stressful, but it doesn’t need to be. Allow yourself the most low-stress road possible to fully focus on the event at hand. To do this, prior preparation is your best friend. Get ready ahead of time, pad your schedule and the budget, delegate, be thorough, and get ready for a mighty successful event!

Anne McCarthy
Post by Anne McCarthy
February 25, 2023
Anne McCarthy is a freelance journalist who reports on tech and culture. She is a contributing writer to the BBC, The Guardian, WIRED, Teen Vogue, Ms. Magazine, and more.