In our SEAUTON Alphabet series, we already discussed the A for Always manage expectations and the B for Budget control. In this article, we will talk about the C for Contingency plan.
The C for
Even though at Seauton we are anything but pessimists, this doesn’t entail that we don’t ever consider what could possibly go wrong in the course of a planned meeting, congress or event. On the contrary! We see our contingency plan process as a nice challenge to make sure we are always one step ahead of the game. That is why we always try to creatively anticipate and determine up front what can be done if something does go wrong.
What to do, for example, if 10 of the rental cars we are using for a particular project are broken into, or we are faced with a 24-hour flight delay?
Those are the moments we open our filing cabinets to retrieve our contingency plans, so we can undo any surprise effect those unplanned events might otherwise have had. And we so do with success.
That is why we are happy to share with you here 5 uncalled for situations that nevertheless occur very regularly in our sector, together with our back-up solutions for them:
1. Accident or illness. What to do?!
We consider it more than normal that as a meeting planner you work on your first aid skills, so every member on our team is qualified to give first aid – from deep cuts to heart attacks. You never know if or when one or more of your participants get involved in an accident or fall seriously ill.
Apart from that, make sure you set up a speed dial for the 112 emergency number, without overlooking the fact that non members of the EU have a different emergency number!
If the participant is in really bad shape, we accompany him or her on the trip to the hospital or even back home, while a colleague of ours jumps in to replace us at the meeting, congress or event. Therefore, whatever you do, make sure that for every project you write a very detailed script, so that in case of emergency your colleagues are operational in no time at all.
2. Lost or stolen identity papers. What to do?!
Always start off here by informing your embassy or consulate, and reporting the matter to the police. This way, replacement identity papers can be provided for, ensuring your participant can travel around again and at least make his or her way home after the international meeting, congress or event you organized.
So, bearing this kind of situation in mind, it is always a good idea for a meeting planner to collect copies of the participants’ identity papers in advance (Respecting GDPR!) ! Plus, this has as an additional benefit that it becomes much easier to avoid spelling mistakes when booking airline tickets et al.
3. Strike at the airport. What to do?!
We have all been there, done that. It is sooooo annoying and, on top of that, seems to occur more and more often these days!
Here are some possible scenarios for you, depending on the situation you find yourself in:
1. Re-arrange the departure from a different, nearby airport.
2. Consider whether travelling by train or bus could be an alternative.
3. Address some of your relations at the airlines company your participants are flying with, or at the travel agency through which their tickets were booked.
4. If you are already at the airport at the moment the strike is being announced, give it your all to set up a good relationship with the ground staff. That way, you can lobby for special arrangements such as an urgent departure for your group of participants, an extra compensation, an overnight hotel stay, a special follow-up of where your group’s luggage is located, and so on.
4. Technical problems. What to do?!
The barcode scanners at the entrance stop working, 1 of the screens breaks down, all of a sudden the microphone drops out or the speakers start producing a hellishly high pitch sound… the possibilities are endless, and technical problems abound.
A dry run and rehearsals are one thing, solid testing another.
But the true secret remains working with professionals. People who are good at solving such problems quickly and efficiently. And who have also been trained to do so under stressful circumstances. And who, on top of that, are very well aware of how important communication is at such a time because that perfectly allows you to professionally brief your customer and audience too, making for the fact that everybody stays happy… in spite of the technical hiccup!
So invest in suppliers you are familiar with, and when it comes to very important projects, don’t rely on companies you have never worked together with before! And if you really want to play safe – the way we always do – then simply provide for a sufficiently large team of your own that can perfectly act as a back-up when necessary.
5. Changes in date and/or location. What to do?!
Sometimes changes in date and/or location have to take place due to external circumstances. Sometimes they take place under the influence of the customer’s wishes.
Whatever the reason, here are 3 things to always bear in mind:
1. Always prioritise negotiating a flexible cancellation agreement with your suppliers. That way, you give your customers as much leeway as possible should they wish to change their dates and/or location.
2. At the same time, however, be crystal clear with your client: changes in date and/or location are possible, but they do come (often) at a price. So openly communicate which costs (whether hotel costs, ticket costs, working costs or any other costs) are attached to those requested changes in date and/or location.
3. That being said, never overlook the plain fact that these kinds of changes are perfectly possible: that which at first sight seems impossible to realise, can and will take shape if tackled the right way! That is how we, for example, managed to move an entire congress with 400 participants from a location in Spain to another one in Italy at 4 weeks’ notice because the deontological commission made the last-minute decision not to agree with our initial choice of hotel. The second we found out about that decision, we threw ourselves into organizing an alternative and meticulously planning the new logistics. On top of that, we made a point of communicating openly and transparently all along the way, providing us with the successful result that the participants didn’t even consider this change of plans inconvenient! Indeed, where there is a will, there is a way…