When Life Hands You Snow

You’ve heard the saying, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” What do you do when life hands you snow? Make snow cream?

As I write this first post of 2017, I am looking out my window into a winter wonderland, coupled with frigid temperatures. I can’t help but think of all the events taking place at conference centers located near my home. Some events have been canceled; others decided to brave the weather.

As an event planner, there are many things you can control—weather is not one of them. Rather than throwing up your hands in despair at impending (and often inconvenient) weather, think of ways you can embrace it and even incorporate it in your event.

Here a few ways you can add to a guest’s experience in the midst of snow:

  • Place hand warmers (the kind that fit in your gloves or pockets) in registration packets guests receive upon arrival. You could also pass these out at the door as guests leave a large group session.
  • If you have extra staff or volunteers, clear the snowy windshields of guests prior to the last session.
  • Set up a hot chocolate bar for guests to enjoy during the evening. Include hot chocolate and toppings such as whipped cream, marshmallows, syrups, chocolate candies, and sprinkles. (For an added twist, serve up a hot chocolate float—add a few scoops of ice cream to your hot chocolate. It’s hard to describe the goodness of such a treat, but I would definitely recommend trying it, if only for a tasty treat for yourself!)
  • Host fireside chats in the evenings. If your lobbies or other meeting spaces have fireplaces, light a fire and invite speakers, worship leaders, or workshop teachers to spend a candid time with your guests. Ask them to share on a more personal level and give guests the opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes, some of your best moments can be in the relaxed, non-structured conversations that take place throughout your event.
  • Most importantly, make sure the walkways are cleared of ice and snow. If you must, grab a shovel and do it yourself.
  • If many guests have to cancel, yet your event is still taking place, consider recording the large group sessions and uploading them for later viewing.

While inclement weather can be an inconvenience and may even lead to canceling an event, there are ways you can adapt your program to incorporate its challenges. And, if you’re all out of ideas and there is fresh snow on the ground, grab some vanilla, sugar, and milk and have a snow cream party!


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!