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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Due to the complexity of large events, it makes them very vulnerable to risks. A risk can be described as a potential future occurrence, which will result in a negative impact on the event. It is easy to pinpoint risks as only being those of a financial or health and safety matter (Barry, 2002). However they can actually occur in any area, at any point in time of the event, and therefore organisers must be aware of potential challenges in order to resolve any incidents in a timely, and efficient manor, thus keeping the event running smoothly (Heerkens, 2002). Throughout this essay, I will look at potential risks and challenges of a large event, and consider the measures that can be put in place in order to avoid or overcome them.

In order to address challenges of an event, planning is an essential measure that should be implemented well before the start, and then referred to throughout. The planning process involves looking at the desired result, and thus looking at what needs to be done in order to achieve that result (Allen et al, 2011). What may seem like a good idea for an event may not always be attainable, and therefore the idea must be produced into a physical plan to prepare for challenges ahead (Rosca, 2011). The planning process of an event can be condensed to compromise of several, interlinked stages. Masterman (2009) created a simple model in order to help organisers have a structure of chronological stages to planning. He suggests establishing objectives and a concept first in order to decide whether an event is feasible. The decision should then be made about whether the event is viable to start further planning.  The event can then be conducted, handed over, evaluated, and feedback is created. This can be very useful to organisers as it shows how the process should be moving forward, and is something to refer back to should a problem occur.

The SWOT analysis tool can really help organisers to put together effective planning stages in terms of addressing their internal and external environment (Johnson and Scholes, 1999). By identifying events strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can then start planning to meet the needs of each category.  It is important for planners to recognise that threats and opportunities are uncontrollable, but by being aware of them they can put in place appropriate planning to try and avoid any unfavourable outcomes (Karadakis et al, 2010). For example the Olympic games always use this tool when planning as it helps them see the positive impacts such as increased tourism, business and social aspects (O'Brien and Chalip, 2007), and then analyse that against weaknesses within their operating environment such as stakeholder support, economic environment and political influences (Shank, 2009). This provides useful insights as once organisers are aware of these weaknesses and threats; they can incorporate solutions into their planning in order for smooth running of the event.

When planning, there is always a risk that organisers may lose sight of what the event is actually trying to achieve. Therefore, it is essential to have SMART objectives as they give the event focus and direction, which strengthens communications. Objectives generate a foundation for the initial planning process, and then act as markers to measure performance throughout (Bowdin et al, 2011). This enables organisers to track whether the event is progressing for success (Shone and Parry 2010). SMART objectives also help with the end evaluation of an event. This evaluation needs to be critical as to how well objectives were achieved, as it can help improve future events (Allen et al, 2005).

Chappelet (2001) describes risk management as having the aim of controlling unforeseen incidents and their potential impact on an event. These incidents may be those such as fire exits, security, overcrowding, legal issues, and ill staff to name a few. There are many measures that can be used to help risk management such as brainstorming. Brainstorming is a way of identifying and evaluating potential problems or risks (Fortune, 1992). It can be particularly helpful when staff are used, as they see what goes on at a customer level, and may have useful insights on what's gone wrong in the past (Buggie, 2003). This measure requires little effort, and is also very low cost, making it a great starting point for the risk management process.

However, the identification of risks can sometimes be overwhelming, as there will likely be many. This is where a measure such as risk breakdown structure can be implemented, as it prioritises risks so that the most likely to occur are evaluated and planned for chronologically (Hilson, 2003). This ultimately breaks down and communicates to planners what the most critical risks are so that they can produce thorough contingency plans, thus boosting the chance of the event running smoothly. This is beneficial to organisers as it makes tasks easier to delegate, and ensures that the worst possible risks such as safety planned for first. However, all stakeholders must be taken into account, and therefore conflicts of interests may cause arguments in what should be the order of priority.

Once risks have been identified, and prioritised, they can then be broken down further into categories so that the correct skills and resources can be allocated. A possible category is financial risks. Financial management is essential, as without funds, the event cannot occur. The mismanagement of finance can lead to running out of money, not breaking even, or not being able to fund contingency plans should something go wrong. Consequently this can be detrimental to the smooth running of an event. A measure that can be taken to control monetary flow is budgets, as they can estimate whether the planners have sufficient funds for the event to go ahead. They also allocate areas with a budget of their own, which can prevent overspending, and increase control. The budgeting process begins at the start of the planning process, by forecasting what every activity in the plan will cost. Should funds not be enough, planners can try making cuts, and looking for cheaper alternatives (Tonnquist, 2008). Budgets were an essential measure used in the planning of the Olympics; they had a huge overall budget, which was then broken down and allocated into key areas to ensure they didn't overspend (International Olympic Committee, 2016). However, it is important to be aware that budgets are not always entirely accurate as it is only an estimation, and other unexpected costs will occur from the start to the end of the event. This is a great risk, and consequently must be planned for (Birch, 2004). Organisers can try overcoming this by having spare funds to cover with these extra costs (Meredith and Mantel, 2003). Once organisers have an idea of their total costs, they can then produce a break-even chart, and from there what their desired profit is.

Another area that must be considered when planning is marketing, as it is the communication between the event and potential event goers. It's a tool to identify their target market, and then goes further to produce an event that meets their needs and expectations (Hall, 1997). Marketing can help to prevent risks such as low attendance and unrealistic expectations. It is incredibly important to only promise what can actually be delivered or else customers will be left disappointed (Paasonen and Torniainen, 2013).  GAP analysis can be useful with this as it assesses the gap in what the event promises and what it actually delivers. Organisers can then try and reduce this gap as much as possible, improving customer satisfaction. For example, Fyre Festival advertised as a luxury VIP festival, and charged up to $100,000 for a ticket. When attendees arrived, it was a wasteland, and the festival was soon shutdown. This left hundreds of customers incredibly upset, and resulted in legal issues (Hanbury, 2018). Another useful measure is the marketing mix, which looks at areas product, place, price and promotion. These factors are essential to reducing risks, as it identifies correct ways of attracting the target market to the event. However, it's important to remember that it does not consider the external environment, which is forever changing. Planners must still be aware of changes in the marketplace throughout the planning process in order to reduce risks (Davis et al, 2000).

Logistics is complex as it involves many areas of event operations from the start to the end of the planning process such as quality, health and safety, queuing and transport. Many measures are needed to check that all risks have been picked up due to operational risks often being the most detrimental. An example of logistics being neglected occurred at Love Parade in 2010. There was only 1 narrow entrance to the festival, which resulted in crushing upon entrance.  This consequently meant 10 people were killed, and 500 injured (BBC NEWS, 2014). Careful planning can prevent disasters such as this, for example the use of blueprints. They analyse the process of the event in order to identify potential internal risks (Stauss and Weinlich, 1997). By drawing out a diagram of chronological events, you can virtually walk through the event, and isolate fail points such as not enough exits. Once you have identified these errors, you can then correct, and produce a contingency plan should the risk occur. This is beneficial to the planning team as it is likely to improve the quality of execution as potential problems have been thought of and dealt with in advance (Shostack, 1984).  Another part of reducing logistic risks is making sure that every task is done on time. The GANTT chart can be used as a tool to make sure that organisers get everything done in a timely fashion. This is helpful for items such as supplies, facilities, and physical set up as without these quality can be hindered. Originally designed for production operations, it's now used in all sorts of contexts, including planning. It provides a visual aid of what tasks need to be done in what timeframe, which keeps organisers on track (Geraldi and Lecher, 2012). This is really helpful in creating deadlines and operating efficiently. On the other hand it is criticised for failing to take into account the interrelations between tasks. For more complex events this may be an issue, and therefore critical analysis may be the better option. This is because it takes into account connections of tasks, which can prevent problems such as bottlenecks thus reducing time wasted.

Once information has been gathered for all areas, contingency plans must be made to manage the risks should and when they occur (Kliem and Ludin, 1997). A crisis management team should be assembled to look at all the potential risks identified through measures, and create a plan for how each can be overcome or avoided. This can be aided by looking at similar past events to see what unforeseen incidents occurred. An analysis can then be conducted on how issues were dealt with, and how they can improve this. The Olympics is a prime example of a large event that relies heavily on contingency planning, as so much could go wrong. It is vital that they plan for, and deal with all risks, as maintaining the legacy of the Olympics is crucial (Stamatakis et al, 2003).

In conclusion, due to the many components of large events they need to be extra careful when planning. This is because there are more stakeholders, greater legacy, more media coverage, and more money involved. The event organisers have a lot of responsibility to ultimately keep everyone safe, but also deliver a seamless event, that attendees will value and remember. In order to achieve this, all measures and resources available should be used, and every factor of planning must be thoroughly evaluated from all angles in order to make sure there is plans in place for every possible risk should it happen. This will ensure all challenges are dealt with, and ultimately help organisers to achieve their objectives.

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