How to Mitigate a CES-style Blackout at Your Event

A major blackout occurred this week—and we’re not talking about the Golden Globes outfits. On Wednesday, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) experienced a 2-hour long power outage at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This was the second day of the annual trade show, which hosts around 180,000 attendees. The outage was more than an inconvenience. Thousands were ushered off grounds and companies (big and small) lost money through missed opportunities. And what’s the big bad culprit? About an inch of rain.

The irony here is unavoidable. A power outage occurred amongst a crowd of the most skilled techies in the world. This is proof that power outages can happen anywhere. Consider the blackout at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) just a month ago.

Power outages can put a tremendous damper on the event, if not end it entirely. That is why planners have come up with a toolkit of precautions and processes to mitigate associated risks. Here’s how you can gear-up in case the lights go out at your event.

Prepare Extensively  

Maria Cruz, Smart Meetings’ meeting planner, emphasizes preparation when it comes to electricity. She asserts, “The most important thing is the preplanning. You have no control over Mother Nature or out of the ordinary occurrences.” Cruz also urges planners to ask the venue about power sources and back-ups, along with their past emergencies and issues.  “I want to know the scope and how they have been handled,” says Cruz.

These matters should all be considered early on. Cruz suggests holding off on booking unless the venue demonstrates it can handle your current needs, as well as includes assurances for how they would adjust if the program grows larger than anticipated. Cruz stresses, “Ask questions and never assume anything is common knowledge.”

Considering the particulars of CES is also useful. Even though the convention center’s Central Hall was one of the first areas to report the blackout, Samsung’s booth offered limited electricity through its private backup power. So even if your risk is low, it might be worth investing in a small backup source. If anything, this can facilitate organizing attendees when an unexpected outage hits.

Ensure Safety First

A big dark room full of confused people can be dangerous. As always, remember to address any safety concerns immediately. The venue should have a protocol listed under emergency procedures. Additionally, an internal plan will ideally keep attendees safely accounted for at all times. If the decision is to evacuate, the exit route must be safe, clear and accommodating.

Communicate Clearly

What comes after safety? Developing a communication strategy. Social media is the best way to reach both attendees and the press quickly. But before getting ahead of yourself, collaborate with the venue. Cruz advises partnering to present a unified front and gain control over the message that will circulate. Once a plan is established, respond quickly. Your brand needs to be protected, which requires minimizing any over-reactions and correcting false information immediately.

Apply Creative Solutions

If dealt with properly, a power outage may only be a small hiccup in an otherwise stellar event. Try to divert the attention and keep the fun going while the problem gets solved. The show must go on, right?