When disaster strikes, the stakes are high for the success of your event. Most meeting planners are well-aware of how unpredictable weather, last-minute venue changes and eleventh hour cancellations can wreak havoc if there is no back-up plan in place. The key is to make sure your team is ultra-prepared for the absolute worst.
In the event of a crisis, here are nine tips to save face and ensure your event goes on without a hitch.
1. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and snow storms can be a planner’s worst nightmare. They can effectively shut down venues, damage property and halt all forms of transportation. Therefore, it pays off to carefully monitor the weather well ahead of time and by the hour, closer to the event.
2. Ask the hotel or venue if they have a contingency plan in place before you make your own. Planners can ask about shared responsibility in the event of an emergency.
3. If a weather-related event puts attendees’ safety at risk, work with your contacts to find alternative venues and locations. CVBs are well-connected with local officials and emergency personnel and serve as a great resource for rearranging plans.
4. Following a venue change, offer discounts and vouchers. If flights and hotel plans are to be changed, your attendees will appreciate reduced room rates and/or gift cards to offset expenses. Smart Meetings’ Venue Finder provides regional information on venues around the world.
5. To accommodate delays, be flexible with your agenda. Move important keynote sessions to a later time, when the bulk of attendees will be able to make it.
6. Know when to outsource certain tasks. An outside security team can provide a detailed risk assessment and work with hotel security to deal with everything from theft to roadblocks.
7. Appoint team members to field questions because attendees will want to be informed of all changes. Create a unified response to avoid mixed messages and misinformation. One person should be authorized to provide statements to the media and public.
8. Invest in cancellation insurance. If you are obligated to issue a refund, a contingency plan can cover extreme weather, accidents, illness, a vendor going out of business, lost or damaged property, postponements and cancellations. Coverage can be tailored to your budget and specific needs.
9. A speaker no-show pales in comparison to larger catastrophes, but can nonetheless ruin a conference. Prepare in advance by including cancellation in the speaking contract. Determine how much notice the speaker should give ahead of dropping out. You can also include your stance on refunds. With tools such as the Smart Meetings Event Speaker Guide, it is easy to find a back-up speaker ahead of time.