For meeting planners who don’t have a contingency or safety plan in place—or for those who need to update an old plan—creating such a document can seem overwhelming. But industry experts say that meeting buyers who ask lots of questions, do research and simply think through what’s needed will easily pull it off. And yes, it’s vital to have a plan in place.
But there’s no need to panic when starting to generate a plan, says Brad A. Goldberg, owner and CEO of TriGold Consulting, who teaches this issue to meetings industry students and professionals.
The first step is trying to envision what types of problems might occur.
“Everything that could arise falls into four areas,” Goldberg says. “There are natural disasters, such as storms; accidental issues, like something medical; technological; or an incident of human frailty, such as crime, terrorism or a privacy issue.”
Those categories, he says, “cover 99 percent of issues that could arise.”
Next, determine what you need to know about a meeting’s destination or venue while on a site inspection.
“Contingency planning 101 is having a great checklist of what safety features need to be there,” says Joan Eisenstodt, president of Eisenstodt Associates, and a frequent industry speaker on the topic. In fact, she notes, “I submit it with the RFP.”
Further, don’t be afraid to ask questions, Eisenstodt adds.
“You want to know a hotel’s plan if the power goes out or there’s no water supply,” she says. “What happens if people can’t leave the building? Does the property do employee background checks or is that outsourced?”
The veteran planner also suggests planners ask questions internally.
“Find out if there’s an emergency plan, what’s happened at previous meetings, etc.,” she notes.
But meeting buyers shouldn’t let the pressure of conceiving every possible incident paralyze them, cautions Tyra Hilliard, a meetings industry attorney and professor who’s taught this issue.
“Any step is progress, and no one is perfect, so start with whatever you can,” she advises.
And try not to drive yourself nuts.
“At some point, enough is enough.” Goldberg notes.
Some hotels don’t want to discuss these issues, fearing they’ll scare customers away. Or, within an organization a planner may hear, “Nothing’s ever happened before.” But not having a plan is not a risk worth taking.
“If you wait until you’re on site, it’s your reputation that’s on the line,” Goldberg notes.
Hilliard bottom-lines it: “Failure to be prepared can lead to liability. It’s the same as deciding whether to buy insurance,” she says. “It won’t matter 99 times out of 100, but the one time it does, you’ll sure wish you had it.”