Traveling to Florida this week has been a challenge, with Tropical Storm Fay — possibly one of the slowest-moving storms in recent history — causing flight cancellations, flooding streets, and closing down airports and bridges.
The MPI Southeast Educational Conference dealt with worries about the storm by being proactive — sending frequent, daily e-mails to registered attendees, exhibitors and speakers, letting them know the show would go on.
Many of the MPI members in attendance at the opening night reception Thursday said, without such encouragement, they may have called off their trips, especially those coming from the Orlando/Tampa area. Flying in from Atlanta to make a speaking engagement at the conference, I was surprised that we didn’t experience turbulence on our flight. But getting to Ponte Vedra and host hotel Sawgrass Marriott was challenging: Several bridges to the coast had closed by the time my car arrived at the airport, but Executive Transportation & Tours was able to get me to my destination safely.
Last night, the Sawgrass management delivered notes to each attendee, letting them know where to find news about Fay’s progress and what the hotel’s safety plans were. In all, the conference planners, transportation company and host hotel did an excellent job making sure attendees felt taken care of.
Unfortunately, this blog is being written from the Jacksonville Airport’s Chili’s, where I’m cooling my heels waiting to see if the 7:30 p.m. flight to Atlanta will be canceled or not. (My 2:30 p.m. flight was.) Again, excellent customer service from AirTran has headed off what could be a very unpleasant experience. The silver lining, if I do get stuck, is that it’s a nice airport with free WiFi and an attached hotel. When I got snowed into Dallas last March, we were given vouchers, shrugs and not much sympathy. The difference is night and day.
I thought this was worth writing about because as meeting planners, the unexpected, the inconvenient and the unpredictable always lurk around the corner from your best-laid plans. When people are taken care of, however, what is remembered are the people who have been helpful, proactive and creative in finding solutions that work.
–By Kristi Casey Sanders