Catastrophe Happens: Why It Is Always Best to Plan for the Worst

My friend, Heather, is a wedding planner in St. Louis. I happen to find a lot of joy in attending weddings (OK, fine…receptions), so every now and then she lets me shadow her on a job and “help.”

One particular wedding Heather managed was held at Missouri Botanical Gardens – perhaps the most gorgeous, coveted outdoor wedding locale in the city. Brides that secure this spot mean business.

The venue’s outdoor garden offers breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, it offers no shelter from a storm and no on-site alternatives for a wedding ceremony should Mother Nature lash out. And unfortunately, at this particular wedding I attended, a springtime storm tore through so fast the bride was mid-aisle, groom-bound and the wind blew her veil right off her head.

Everyone’s eyes were on that poor bride. Her eyes? They were on Heather. And Heather couldn’t have looked calmer.

an-event-can-only-be-as-good-as-the-best-emergency-planMy friend immediately kicked into emergency mode, and rather than spin anxiously out of control (the bridesmaids took care of that for everyone), Heather quickly guided the party to a new spot on the same street that she had reserved just in case. Her team already knew to gather the décor, everything was set up quickly, the ceremony took place just 15 minutes later, and we were eating our chicken marsala and toasting to happily-ever-after in no time.

I asked Heather later how she managed to stay so calm and pull off a picky-bride pleasing event, and she replied, “Sometimes an event can only be as good as the best emergency back-up plan.”

This bit of logic reminded me of a quote I read recently in an article on venue safety in IAVM’s Facility Manager magazine. In an interview with Kevin Mattingly, the deputy director for the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues, Mattingly talks about risk management and the importance of preparing for any emergency, especially for venue and event managers.

One sound piece of he offers is this: “I think about what could go wrong, and then work backwards from there.”

So, as venue managers or event planners, how do you plan for the worst? The best way is to look long and hard at the possibilities and develop an emergency plan. Open your eyes and…

  • Look beyond the obvious: As a venue manager, this means assessing all of the potential threats to the well-being of anyone who enters your facility. And, some of the biggest threats to a successful event aren’t necessarily physical emergencies. You also want to prevent catastrophic guest experiences that could severely harm your event business or venue’s reputation. Your brand relies on operations running smoothly and attendees leaving the event satisfied.
  • Look at all your options: How can you ensure your plan is solid? In some cases, it’s having the right people in place to perform the functions. In other cases, it’s having the right technological tools in place to manage the data and details. It’s ideal to evaluate all of the areas where risk exists – both in terms of human safety and guest satisfaction.

I’d love to know how you plan for the worst. Share your tips with me on Twitter, or shoot me an email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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