How to plan for every event scenario


How to plan for every event scenario

Francoise Lajournade is DWTC’s Director of Planning & Operations. A seasoned professional who’s experienced it all, she shares best practice recommendations on how to plan for a truly world-class event

Recommendation one: work as a team

For an event to run smoothly, it is essential that everyone, from the venue and organiser to contractors and exhibitors, works as a team. Failure to do so will force delays, confusion or, worse, unhappy stakeholders. To facilitate healthy and efficient working relationships, there must be a clear understanding of each party’s remit and the expectations of the event from the outset. When problems arise, it is often the result of insufficient communication and coordination between stakeholders. At Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), we provide a dedicated planner to support organisers in the preparation and delivery of each event. More than 1,000 DWTC staff are involved in the delivery of an event, from the catering, engineering, technical and production services, through to housekeeping, health & safety and the security & protocol departments.


Recommendation two: plan as early as possible

The earlier planning begins the more chance our world-class organiser partners have of seizing opportunities. It is essential to establish what all parties want and expect to achieve, and have that mapped to a timeline and project plan. By engaging all stakeholders early, there is time to give and receive feedback on how things could be more efficiently executed. At DWTC, through our online organiser portal, we provide a comprehensive client checklist to ensure that all aspects of the event relating to the venue have been discussed and agreed. It outlines what information needs to be provided and by when, so that we can deliver on time, every time. The earlier organisers share their requirements, the more options we can offer. The organiser manual also sets out our rules and regulations, and covers essential administrative aspects such as event permits, floor plan approval and so on. There is a natural order for tasks to be completed, and we encourage our organiser partners to follow this system. We always encourage clients to come for site inspections. We recommend detailed planning commences six months and, in some instances, up to one or two years in advance of the event. This is particularly the case for world congresses or conventions where planning includes event concept development, and coordinated site visits and technical recces with all stakeholders. Planning for these more complex events also includes making best use of the destination and venue.

Recommendation three: make the best use of technology

Technology is evolving all the time and there are many systems that help events run more smoothly. These systems have the added advantage of capturing and storing incredibly valuable data that can benefit the organiser before, during and after an event. Online event registration enables the organiser to keep the venue aware of real-time numbers to make the necessary preparations for seating and catering requirements. It also provides a database for marketing. Today, many exhibitions offer a navigation app for visitors to download and use to find the exhibitors they wish to visit. There are many different ways to search the database, which provides greater flexibility than the traditional printed show guide. It also allows organisers to capture all the data, so they know which companies’ attendees were most keen to interact. This kind of information is of huge value when it comes to planning future events. Technology also allows delegates to submit questions or to vote in surveys during conferences. Again, this provides useful material that can be used in post-event reports or for marketing future events.

​Recommendation four: make a contingency plan

Every event organiser must plan for the unexpected. This means assessing the risks at each step in the planning phase and asking what if? What if we do not reach the number of participants we have budgeted for? What if we exceed numbers? What does that mean for F&B orders and the seating layout? What if there is bad weather? There should be measures in place to mitigate these scenarios. When planning an outdoor event, for example, have indoor space available in case rain breaks out. And, if a speaker drops out or is delayed, replace the session with a panel discussion using other speakers. If something is cancelled or postponed, have a clear communication plan in place. What happens if a contractor fails to deliver or a shipment is delayed? What happens if there are long queues at registration? All of these things need to be thought through ahead of time so that people can jump into action immediately. Always remember the venue is there to help. By having these ‘what if’ discussions, everything runs more smoothly when last minute changes need to be made.

Recommendation five: track your budget

This sounds obvious, but it is so important. Establish a realistic budget based on true costings and quotations rather than guesswork, and track all outgoings. If you have multiple people placing orders, it is easy to lose sight of spending and be forced to make unwanted compromises. Event organisers often have to deal with an unexpected reduction in budget. This is a huge challenge, but the sooner it is identified, the better the chance of finding alternative solutions that do not jeopardise the quality of the event. To avoid nasty surprises down the line, be aware of the terms & conditions before cancelling or changing the scope of an order. If you are running over budget, ring fence the things that will bring the most benefit to the audience experience, and remember the expectations that all stakeholders have in terms of event delivery.


  • DWTC
  • Event Management
  • Venue Operations