how do you plan for the unexpected?

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Hotels

Photo courtesy of Gaylord Hotels

Of all the things that can possibly go wrong with an event, do you ever consider that the venue might have its water supply shut off?

That’s exactly what happened last week when a damaged water main in Prince George’s County in Maryland almost led to a water shutoff. Officials were able to make the necessary repairs before having to shut off water for more than 100,000 people during a heat wave, but not before the 2,000 room Gaylord National Harbor and other hotels had already evacuated all the guests. The Gaylord also had to relocate five conferences.

I don’t know which conferences were relocated and to where, but I assume they were all covered by the force majeure clauses in their contracts. Still, I’m sure it was a headache for conference organizers and hotel staff alike.

Any event – big or small – needs a risk plan. Event planners pride themselves in being great problem solvers – reacting to the problems that arise during the event. But we need to be more proactive and work through potential scenarios ahead of time.

Risk management is a huge topic and tons of books have been written about the subject, even specific to events and conferences. I would encourage you to explore those resources when working on a risk management plan, but here are a few basic suggestions:

Always know where your staff and volunteers are and how to reach them in an emergency. Develop an emergency protocol that carries over for all events, such as a call list.

Have a plan on how to reach your guests or attendees in an emergency or even just to communicate change of plans – are you collecting cell phone numbers at registration?

Think about the weather when planning events – there are certain places that have riskier weather patterns at certain times of year. For example, avoid regions that get a lot of snow in the winter if you want to avoid potential travel delays. Avoid regions that are often in the path of hurricanes during hurricane season. Often you can get a great deal on meetings and events in these places at those times for that very reason, but understand the risk.

Have a plan B you can pull out of your pocket for speakers or entertainers who might be delayed.

Know your contract terms. Sit down with your lawyer and make sure you understand how an Act of God is defined in your contract so you know exactly which situations will put it into effect.

This doesn’t begin to even scratch the surface of event risk management. What are your suggestions?

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