3 Proven Ways to Handle Meeting Emergencies

Missy Johnson, CMPPost written by Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

I’ve been thinking about contingencies a lot lately. With the stories in the news about the Zika virus, the wildfires in California and New Mexico, and the random, senseless acts of violence in Orlando, it’s given me pause to think about how I would handle it if I had a meeting or event happening in one of these affected areas.

While I realize I’ll never be perfect at planning for worst-case-scenarios at every meeting and event, I do have a few proven ways to handle meeting emergencies:

1. Clear Communication is Paramount

When delivering bad news to meeting attendees, keep it simple and BE HONEST. Attendees appreciate having the most current and accurate information you can give them. I know as organizers we sometimes choose to shelter our attendees from some of the details. We do this to ensure we don’t alarm them and give them a reason to cancel their attendance. In my experience, this is a bad decision.

Meeting attendees are generally a smart group of educated adults and you need to treat them that way. While you will always have a few cancellations in these situations, most attendees will react as you expect them to and will appreciate honest communication about the situation.

help2. Know the Chain-of-Command for Decision Making

As the planner, it’s very important to know who within the organization can make the tough decisions if an emergency occurs…both before the event and onsite during the event.

I’ve found that it’s not always the most obvious person and knowing who to go to in a crisis to make snap decisions is really important when time is tight. If onsite during an event, you also need to know the chain-of-command for decisions inside your hotel or convention center.

3. Don’t Forget About Your Partners and Vendors

I learned the hard way that communication about fluid situations is just as important to do with your vendors and partners as it is with your attendees. Hotels, convention centers, decorators, a/v partners, exhibitors, invited press, etc…they all need to know your plan in a crisis and they can also often help with communications.

One thing I know for sure…no matter how much planning you do in advance to ensure every single detail is perfect for your meeting or event…it can all change in an instant in the case of a crisis or emergency. Pre-planning for worst-case-scenarios only takes a little time and everyone feels better knowing there’s a plan in place if the unexpected happens. I think we can all agree that’s much better than the alternative.

What contingency situations have you run into and how have you handled them? Please post your comments below. If you have other questions about contingency planning or need help planning your next meeting or event, you can reach me at 913-645-6649 or missy@mjmeetings.com

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