Weather the Weather
Meeting planners have a responsibility for participant comfort, enjoyment and safety. Whether your event is held indoors or outdoors, it is essential to have a contingency or back up plan for weather related events, and this need is only elevated if all or part of your meeting is held outdoors. Well in advance you and the meeting sponsor should select vendors and site managers with proper training, experience and equipment to seamlessly manage weather events. You will also need to decide:
Many areas of the Midwest have experienced more than their fair share of severe storm activity this year. In June, Christa Miehe, director of special events for the VGM Group in Waterloo, IA, saw both her city and her annual conference consumed by floodwaters of historic proportions. Each year, the VGM Group, a buying group for home medical equipment providers, produces a four-day education event called the Heartland Conference.
The 2008 conference was held at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in downtown Waterloo. On Wednesday, June 11, severe flooding from the Cedar River resulted in evacuation of the convention center, the nearby Ramada Inn and Quality Inn, and several other downtown businesses, forcing Miehe and her team to cancel the final two days of the conference in midstream.
It starts with an email inquiry. An individual from outside the US is coming here and needs an event planned in a hurry. Can you do it?After that, the details might begin to seem a little fishy. The amount of detail, for instance - described by one planner as overwhelming - might seem strange.
Then the “client” might mail you a cashier’s check to pay for your planning services - but there’s a catch. The cashier’s check is written out for an amount exceeding your charges, and the “client” wants you to send that additional amount to vendors on his or her behalf.
Due to a few recent incidents at industry functions, much attention within the planning community has once again been focused on alcohol consumption at meetings and events. Attendees’ alcohol intake is often a concern for many planners. Where there is alcohol, there is the potential for undesirable behavior. A common line item on the risk management checklist, it is one more area in which planners must practice due diligence.
Iowa is the only Midwest state that allows free alcoholic beverages to be served to commercial casino patrons. However, with the “rush” of the typical casino experience, it might be all too possible for some people to get carried away.Most casinos implement their own methods of controlling consumption. Some are required by their respective states to educate employees in the safe serving of alcohol through programs such as Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS).
When it comes to weather conditions in the Midwest, we’ve got it all. From severe cold to severe heat to all the unpredictable conditions caused in between, weather is a factor that should be taken into consideration when you’re planning a meeting or event in the Midwest.
Once you’ve set your dates, prepare for possible seasonal extremes.
Disasters can strike at any time, and last summer’s Midwest storms left many people confused as to where to go for help. Imagine hosting a meeting or event in the midst of a crisis such as the widespread flooding that swept the region.Confusion is perhaps the greatest danger in a disaster situation. Not having a thorough risk management plan, not knowing where to go for help and not knowing how officials handle disasters can result in monumental stress.
Before: Learn to Help Yourself
When the worst happens, your first resource will be you. Being able to effectively handle a crisis situation involving possible injuries, danger and the whole spectrum of human emotions is key to any disaster situation. Look into not only developing a thorough risk management plan, but also consider investing in your own education and training to handle emergencies.
The Council for Excellence in Government has created a new tool to measure emergency preparedness. The Public Readiness Index (PRI) provides a method for gauging “readiness quotient,” or RQ. An individual’s RQ is based on several different factors. Maybe you know to head to the basement in the event of a tornado, but do you have a survival kit prepared at home? Real-life practical measures are the basis of RQ.
In recent years, most of the press surrounding risk management in the meetings and events industry has focused on potential weather, terrorism and flu. While these topics are dominating headlines nationwide, they are by no means the only areas you should examine when assessing possible risks in your planning process.
Plan for everything you can think of, and something else will probably go wrong. Most meeting and event planners are well versed in Murphy’s Law and its oftentimes ironic relevance to the industry. The trick is to have a plan - and perhaps a hope - in place for all those unexpected circumstances.
Have a Backup-Backup Plan
On the opening day of the National Cable Television Cooperative’s Winter Educational Conference a few years ago, exhibitors had just begun to set up when some ominous news came to Caprice Caster, CMP.“My CSM came up to me and said, ‘We have a situation that I need to make you aware of,’” recalls Caster, who now handles marketing and promotions for Automotive Parts Associates in Lenexa, KS. “Not exactly the thing you want to hear at that time.”