Have you ever lost control of a situation?  Been planning an event or initiative and gotten the sense that things are moving along, but not quite as you had anticipated?  Welcome to chaos.

Recently, I was involved in creating the programming for a business forum.  We had a key strategy to encourage participation between panelists and attendees.  This participation created a ton of energy and opportunity, but the dynamic nature of the program also resulted in a chaotic situation.

Here are three things I learned that can apply to your business situations.

Establish guidelines

At this event, we had a fixed timeline.  Panels were scheduled to last 40 minutes with a short break between each one.  Panelists’ opening remarks were limited.  The audience was given firm instructions as to how to ask a question.  Microphones were placed strategically, with staff assigned to assist individual audience members.

What might be some guidelines for your business?

You might create a handbook that outlines what is – and what is not – acceptable on social media.

In customer-facing situations, you could highlight best practices and give examples.

Or, you could consider creating videos to showcase best-in-class sales conversations.

Consider rewarding accuracy and execution consistent with the guidelines.

Plan ahead

At our forum, we had panelists submit presentations in advance.  We made sure we had clear expectations on both sides.  We prepared questions and answers in advance.  We rehearsed openings and closings.

For your business, create and rehearse your company’s elevator pitch.  Consider what kind of “picture” words you can use to make an impression.

When it comes to creating content, one of my goals is making a video that showcases “authentic perfection.”

I know a manager of a business startup accelerator who encourages “spontaneous collaboration.”

What are your company’s picture words?

Make a list of frequent questions and answers that your customers and prospects ask.  Write down those questions and the answers.

Compile a set of success examples for your product or service.  Prepare how you would talk about these successes in advance.  (I am amazed how many times after doing a live TV interview, my interviewee will say to me, “Gosh, I wish I had remembered this example…”)

Have you ever walked out of a customer meeting thinking about what you could or should have said?  It pays to plan ahead.

Have a contingency plan

For our expo, we knew it was possible that a panelist would not show up, or a video would not play, or we would get started late or run over.  For each one of these scenarios, there was a backup plan.

Invariably, some things went wrong, but we acted quickly and the show went on.

When you outline your event or initiative, write down what each key activity is, and who is responsible for it.

Next, write down what you will do if the activity is compromised.  What is your backup if the person who is responsible does not show up – or goofs up?

As far as your customer, prospect, guest or viewer is concerned, the show must go on.  Excuses don’t work.

The challenge with chaos is no one likes to talk about it.  Please note that how you deal with the opportunities that chaos creates help differentiate your solution.

People deal with you and your company because they believe that you can effectively solve their problem.  What happens in the background does not matter to them.

So, set your guidelines, practice executing and consider contingencies, because your customers, prospects and stakeholders have high expectations and don’t want excuses.