As planners, we’re usually more prepared than most others for just about anything that life in the meeting universe throws our way, don’t you think?
- Leaky ceiling in your meeting room? No problem! Pack up and move to the room next door.
- Boxes with meeting signage haven’t arrived at your venue on time? Find the nearest 24-hour print shop.
- Flight delays? Guaranteeing late check-ins and pre-keying VIP rooms will help you avoid problems.
But what about real disasters like hurricanes and plane crashes and bombs that go boom?
At a recent gathering of industry professionals, we heard some incredible stories from planners who’ve actually been through these types of challenges, and one common thread remained clear — meeting planners know how to survive.
Let’s face it; we’re all trained to work in a lineal fashion. We make lists and meticulously check items off of them. We discuss contingencies and know what to do when Plan A turns into Plan B. We are also born leaders and that, too, bodes well when disaster hits. In short, just like good scout leaders everywhere, planners pretty much believe that preparedness is key to survival.
But on top of being sleep deprived and working 24/7 while we’re on-site during a meeting, how do we prepare for the potential of anything and everything going wrong?
It’s a given that we absolutely can’t organize a game plan for each and every twist and turn that might come our way, but there are some basic concepts of disaster preparation that should be discussed and considered at some point during your planning process.
Here are three key points to consider when you have “the talk” with your staff and management about the “what-ifs” of an on-site emergency:
1. Be aware and stay informed
If you’re traveling to Florida or the Caribbean during hurricane season, start tracking the weather. If a major disease has just broken out in a country or venue in which you’re planning to do business, find a reliable local contact and get the facts. Don’t rely on national news reports, which can be inflated and cause panic. Go to an official source and get as many current details as you can. If you’re not comfortable with the first reports, get second opinions, but always from professional and reliable sources.
2. Make an internal (staff) plan and an external (attendees) plan
Answer important questions in advance, like who will be in charge of your on-site group, who’s authorized to make decisions, who will speak for your company and who will communicate with attendees. If possible, designate a meeting spot ahead of time where all staff will gather in an emergency and be accounted for if and when the time comes.
3. If you’re not the leader, make sure you’re a good follower
Don’t try to convey information that’s based on hearsay. Do support whatever decisions are made by those in charge. Emergencies are no time to argue, complain, express fear or panic. When going into uncharted waters, it’s best to have a good captain at the ship’s helm.
How prepared are you?