Contingency Plans In Action!
The last few weeks in Philadelphia have brought Hurricane Sandy, an early season nor'easter, and 3,000 new Philadelphia Marathon runners who were displaced from the New York City Marathon. All of this means that the last few weeks at Perfection Events have been spent on executing on our contigency plans.
The week prior to Hurricane Sandy hitting our area, we wrote about the importance of contingency plans and noted that they may become necessary very quickly for planners on the east coast. Unfortunately, this became true for many planners as hotels in New York City and Atlantic City were closed, states of emergency were declared in many states, airlines cancelled virtually every flight in and out of the airports in our regions, and millions of people were left without power.
Most people across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Connecticut have spent the last few weeks cleaning up and trying to recover from the storm. As a company, our story is no different - we have spent our time cancelling, postponing, rebooking, and, changing the scope of several events that were scheduled to take place in late October and early November. In our last blog, we recommended "following the event, schedule a block of time to review the identified risks and determine if the emergency protocol you developed for each should be added to your plan, and also review the unexpected situations that occurred and update your plan accordingly." Well, we are taking our own advice and adding some of the lessons learned and best practices identified over the past few weeks to our tool kit.
This one seems obvious, we know. But, you can scan the news and hear horror stories about companies that didn't communicate with stakeholders and caused unnecessary confusion and headaches. If you are in a situation where contingency plans must be executed, ensure that you start communicating with your audience as early in the process as possible and communicate often. For example, in the case of a postponement, communicate immediately that an event is being postponed, even if you don't have the new dates and logistics confirmed yet. Your initial communication can announce the postponement and that you will be back in touch soon with the new details. Quick, simple, effective. It gets the important message (the postponement) out as soon as possible and doesn't require waiting for new details that will take time to confirm.
Even when you think you have communicated to your audience enough, take it just one step further and communicate again. When an event is being cancelled or postponed, you have to make every effort to get the message to each and every attendee. For one event that was postponed last week, we quickly sent an email message to every attendee, but we took it a step further and placed a phone call to every attendee too. Did this take time that we maybe didn't have at the moment? Of course. But it was crucial to making sure the message got out. And, we divided up the list among every able body we had and the calls were finished in no time at all!
Nothing Is Immune
Think your event is immune to the weather? Think again. We had never before considered the possibility that a webinar would cancel because of weather. But yet, it happened. If your presenter and audience don't have electricity, the webinar format doesn't work too well. Make sure you consider contingency plans for EVERY type of event.
Planners, by nature, need to be and feel in control at all times. Well, apparently nobody (even the best meeting planners) can control Mother Nature. What we can do is identify the risks ahead of time, and begin putting together a game plan in the event that the worst does happen. And sometimes, even the best planning and risk assessment can't account for things that will happen (like the cancellation of the New York City Marathon and 3,000 new runners in the Philadelphia Marathon). Good planners have a lot of tools in the tool kit and strong relationships in the contact lists. When the unexpected happens, it's time to use every tool and relationship we have to quickly adjust, adapt, and just make it happen.
At the end of the day, the impact that any meeting planner felt as a result of the wild weather of the past few weeks is nothing compared to the impact felt by many people and families who lost everything. When feeling the stress of the unknown and uncontrollable (two things that make planners shiver in fear!), remember that you will create a new plan and it will all work out.
What lessons have you learned over the past few weeks that now become part of your toolkit?