4 Strategies for Managing Successful Events in the Face of Adversity

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The Best Preparations for the Worst Case Scenarios

I don’t remember walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror, but lately we’ve had some tough karma when it comes to our client meetings. Faithful blog readers (that’s you, Mom!) may remember that we had a meeting back in September that we had to cancel due to Hurricane Irma. Well, six weeks later, that same client had a meeting in Barcelona the week of the Catalan secession vote and resulting unrest.  And now the same client has a meeting coming up in Cape Town, South Africa, where a water shortage is threatening to completely deplete the city’s water supply.

So we’ve gotten pretty good at managing through adversity. Here are a few tips:

  1. Gordon Gekko was right. Thirty years ago in the movie Wall Street, the character of Gordon Gekko opined that “information is the most valuable commodity there is.” He’s never been more right than in the case of an event facing a challenge. Whether it was knowing the exact track of the storm in the case of Irma or understanding the impact of water restrictions in Cape Town, we had to learn first-hand the facts of the situation. Keep these two things in mind:
    1. Local sources are best. National and international news tends to generalize by region. In the case of Barcelona, areas of large scale protests were in the city center, with our hotel on the outskirts. It was the equivalent of being in Virginia when there is a large event on the National Mall in Washington—-you’re aware it’s happening, but it doesn’t have an impact. Locals understand the local impact.
    2. Situations change. In the case of Irma, we started the week thinking the storm would miss us entirely, but the track changed daily. Decisions that were sound one day had to be revisited the next. Check and recheck your information.
  2. Understand your insurance coverage. Have you read the fine print of your event insurance cancellation coverage? Understanding what’s covered and what’s not is a conversation that is best had with your broker when there isn’t an active crisis— and especially not when you’re in the midst of one.
  3. Rumors can start quickly, and questions take on a special urgency in a crisis situation. While everyone may be busy trying to fix things behind the scenes, remember that you can’t communicate enough with attendees, staff, stakeholders and vendors. Consider regular huddles, especially with the venue to identify issues, and communicate regularly with attendees via both email and social media.
  4. Safety first. There’s no substitute for good planning—this can mean everything from having flashlights in your bag to making sure you have your event team’s full contact information—and that those in the office do as well. You want to be able to easily reach people in an emergency.

So how did this all turn out for us?

In the case of Irma, we cancelled the meeting, but learned a ton. In Barcelona, we went forward and had no issues at all.  As for Cape Town, our current plans are to proceed forward, but we are alerting attendees about the water situation and making sure that we are utilizing sustainable practices.

I can’t wait to see what our Tokyo meeting will hold— here’s hoping Godzilla doesn’t know we’re coming!

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