In Light of Hurricane Matthew…

Earlier this month, our eyes were glued to weather radars as we watched and waited to see what path Hurricane Matthew would take.  Mandatory evacuations were put in motion.  Many people had to pack up and head out, regardless of whatever plans they had already scheduled.

Unfortunately, storms don’t operate on our timetables.  If they did, there would be no need for a Plan B for outdoor events.  So, what do you do when your upcoming event may be in the eye of the storm?  Cancel?  Reschedule?  Relocate?  Continue as planned?

Here are questions to ask yourself as you make weather-related decisions concerning your event:

  1. Does your venue contract contain an act of God clause? (If not, it should!)  Acts of God (or force majeure for the French scholars) are unforeseeable events that are out of human control.  They can include, but are certainly not limited to, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires and floods.  Melissa Inman, Director of Sales and Marketing at Ridgecrest Conference Center, says, “Don’t panic and cancel too early.  Watch the weather, and then contact your property.  You don’t want to pull out before an act of God clause can be implemented.”  Your venue might make the decision for you if they deem the location to be in danger.
  2. Is it possible to reschedule your event? If this is an option, remember to consider those attending.  While you most likely can’t ask each guest individually, take a poll of a group of attendees.  For those who cannot attend a rescheduled date, refund their fees as an act of good measure.
  3. Could you relocate your event to a place not affected by the weather? Ask your event venue for recommendations if they know your event will be cancelled at their location.  Oftentimes, if an alternate location has availability on such short notice they will be willing to work with you to make your event happen.
  4. How are attendees affected by this weather? Consider your guests and their situations.  For example, a recent marriage conference was held during the mandatory evacuations of Hurricane Matthew.  While the location was away from the storm, many of the attendees were traveling from the affected areas.  They could make the trip; however, they would be leaving their children with caregivers in the hurricane’s path.  As parents, being with their children was more important than attending a conference away from them.  Remember to be respectful of individual situations when people cancel because of the weather.
  5. Are there other ways to get content to your attendees? If the event continues as planned, try to live-stream event sessions or make them available for download to those unable to attend.

A little bad weather, while usually inconvenient, does not have to alter your event as a whole.  However, there are times when weather takes a more active role, and altering plans is necessary.  The safety of your attendees is much more important than carrying out your event in the midst of dangerous weather.

The best thing to do as an event planner in these types of situations is to stay in constant contact with your event venue.  Be proactive, but remember, weather is something out of your control.  Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best.


Seasonal Considerations That Could Impact My Event

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine seasonal impact on an event- especially if you are planning it during an entirely different time of year. For each season think through how weather, school schedules, holidays, and venue availability might effect your event.  Here are a few things we have noted about seasons in the south.  See if these observations spark anything you might need to take into consideration for your next event.

Spring:  Weather can be very unpredictable.  Your outdoor team-building exercise may be rained out- so have a great back up plan in place.  It may be 65 and sunny or 50 and rainy, so prepare by thinking through both eventualities and stocking up for both.

Summer: Sun and shade. If you are planning anything out of doors– be ready to provide water and shade.  A friend of mine planned their child’s birthday party outside, and set up a wonderful play area for the children.  Unfortunately, it was an unusually blistering day, and everyone crowded into the only available shade, about five square feet next to a concrete wall.  If it will be hot, plan to make use of available shade from trees or buildings. Purchase some shade tents or umbrellas if necessary.

Fall: School schedules.  Fall is a very busy season for parents and children.  Look at local school calendars before scheduling an event or retreat.  You’ll lose lots of participants if your event is held the night before children go back to school!

Winter:  If you are in an area that receives snow or ice, decide how you will determine if conditions are unsafe, and how you will notify people if they are.  Many radio and television stations will help you broadcast your cancellation, but you will need to set up an account with them first.  If your guests are already on-site, prepare with extra hot drinks and lots of salt-melt.

Year-round: Be aware of conflicts that could make it difficult to book a venue or caterer for your event (like trying to reserve a chapel on a saturday in June) but also use off-season months to your advantage.  Call a few of your favorite spots, and ask them if and when things slow down.  If you’re willing to be flexible you might even be able to negotiate an even better rate.

Instead of wrestling with the season during your event planning, consider it’s challenges, and prepare accordingly.  And don’t forget to choose at least one thing that makes it unique and find a way to highlight it.  You and your guests will enjoy it even more if you do!