Even the best laid plans for a meeting or event can be thrown asunder in the blink of an eye, or the pop of a circuit, if the on-site internet or power source suddenly goes bust.

The December 27, 2018 report that internet and phone service from CenturyLink suddenly went out throughout much of its system undoubtedly caught many unawares.

What should meeting and event planners do on-site if the internet goes out? How can they prepare ahead of time?

Other than run as fast as one can for the nearest emergency exit, there are some solid fail-safes planners can employ to ensure the show goes on during an internet or power outage, even if it may suffer from some inconveniences.

Meetings Today reached out to Jon Trask, owner of Strategic Meeting Tech and a more than 30-year meetings and events audiovisual veteran, for some quick tips for when the internet fails you:

  • Keep all presentations and important digital files on a local network and stored on thumb drives.
  • As a fail-safe, keep screenshots of all slides on thumb drives [as well]. Presenters can walk attendees through the content [using the screenshots] if necessary.
  • Have the presentations [submitted and loaded] in advance so there’s not any last-minute scramble in the room to load the presentation.
  • Have contingency plans if you must reach the internet that include using a different [internet] service accessed via hotspot or cellular service.
  • Making sure you know the importance of why someone needs internet access; some presenters just work from habit—like to show off a website—or don’t realize there are costs or potential problems relying on external connections. Make sure that they actually need the live internet to make their presentation effective. Ask if it is a “must have” or a “like to have.”

Trask added the following pieces of advice regarding power failures at events:

“Obviously, if power goes you lose not just the internet, but all of your technology for the meeting,” he said. “So, first be aware about the power situation at your location.

“Have there been problems in the past?,” he added. “Are there expected challenges, like maybe a planned outage in the area because of summer usage or a recent accident?”

[Meetings Today Podcast: Saving Money on AV and How to Deal With Internet Outages]

As with anything contingency related, the ultimate security always comes with a price.

“Power is one of those necessary things, but you have to weigh the costs of preparing to replace it,” Trask said. “A generator, so that you control the power coming in, is the safest protection, but ask yourself if the costs involved in bringing one in are necessary based on the fairly small chance in most places—at least in North America—of a power failure.”

[Related Content: ABCs of AV – Saving Big on Audiovisual Services]

Of course, if the power does go out, your meeting or event may need to be evacuated as soon as possible for a variety of reasons. In this case, attendee safety is always the No. 1 priority.

“If power does fail you may be required to evacuate the room anyway, or at the minimum some of the automated systems like alarms may be affected by an outage,” Trask said.

“You may have larger safety concerns about caring for or protecting your attendees that are greater priorities than just having a way to continue a presentation," he added.

Read more power outage tips for meeting planners from Paul Frederick and Brenda Rivers.