10 Ways to Prepare for the Unexpected at Your Onsite Meeting
The time spent leading up to your next onsite meeting is always hectic. Between last-minute projects and fielding questions from staff and attendees alike, planning for the unexpected can easily fall off the to-do list. Believe me, I have been there.
Through my research, as well as trial and error as your faithful meeting planner, discover what you and your team need to be thinking about before you take off for your next onsite meeting.
- Identify your Risk. Identifying risk starts before final site selection. Is your group considering Florida? Is Zika going to be top of mind for your attendees? Or a hurricane? Maybe you are looking at San Francisco. Do you have earthquake insurance? Having a risk assessment conversation with key players BEFORE the site selection decision is made brings transparency and clear expectations to the site selection decision process.
- Reduce Risk. Once a risk is identified, ask yourself, can you reduce the risk? Can you transfer the risk? Or, can you accept the risk? For instance, if your Miami event consists mostly retired men, Zika is not going to be a high risk factor, so therefore you can accept the risk. Worried about hurricanes? The Florida Tourism Board is able to work with groups on these concerns and help take the risk off the group if a hurricane were to take place (transferring the risk). For instance, if CDC level is high in the city of your meeting, you may be able to include a clause in your contract that allows your group to be relocated with no cost.
- Plan Ahead. Make emergency planning a part of the process. Implement discussion about procedures for each high risk situation and ensure your staff knows what process to follow in these situations.
Every onsite conference you attend should have an updated emergency preparedness plan that has been reviewed and approved by the venue hosting your meeting. Once this document is approved, ensure your staff has a copy and review it as a team.
Don’t forget to ensure you have your emergency cancellation insurance purchased to cover all possible risks!
- Communicate. If an emergency were to happen onsite, determine how your team is going to communicate between one another. Educate your staff on their role in the emergency situation and designate a meeting area if the team were required to evacuate. Making a communication flow chart noting who is contacting whom in case of an emergency and reviewing it with your team will take away the unknown of who to call if something were to happen onsite.
- Assign responsibility. Assigning staff to important tasks during an emergency is key to ensuring all bases are covered. Know who is contacting the Board, who is releasing a public statement, and who is communicating with speakers, exhibitors, and attendees. Everyone should be aware of whom will determine if the meeting is going to continue or if it needs to be relocated or cancelled and how the information will be shared. Above all, remind your staff noting that attendees will be looking to them for how to react. If staff is calm and composed, attendees will feel the same.
- Rely on your partners. Your Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) partners are your biggest advocates when coming to a new city for your meeting. They are the lifeline to all first responders and can provide all information needed when you are onsite. Make sure you are taking advantage of these resources. The CVB will be able to provide information about the nearest hospitals, pharmacies, and evacuation locations if needed. Having these conversations ahead of time with your CVB representative will help prepare you and your team for anything that may arise during the meeting.
- Document, Document, Document. So you experienced an incident onsite and it is now resolved. Immediately following the resolution, document what took place to be sure to capture details while they’re fresh in your mind. If another staff person helped resolve this incident, ensure they are documenting their details of the event as well. If questions about the incident arise at a later date, being able to reference your report is critical.
- Communicate. Oh, did I say this already? Clear communication is so extremely important! Ensuring that you and your team keep the lines of communication open and flowing will make any unexpected event go so much smoother.
- Reflect. So…how did it go? If you experienced an emergency during your event, did staff and the venue respond quick and effectively? Did you learn anything from this situation? Could this incident have been prevented? Having a post-event discussion helps your team grow and prepare better in the future.
- Adopt and adjust. Trends in safety and emergency management are always changing as society experiences new threats. Have a yearly review of your emergency preparedness plan. If an internal review is not desired, consider hiring a consultant to evaluate your meeting’s risk. This review is invaluable and gives your team insights specific risk factors. You can’t avoid all emergencies, but you can develop effective plans to ensure the best possible outcome.
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