No planner is naïve enough to believe their meeting or event will come off without a hitch, no matter how perfectly planned and documented it may be. The best planners are organized, meticulous, flexible and creative, and they know that when faced with either a foreseeable or a completely unexpected problem in the destination – one as common as needing last-minute overflow hotel rooms, or as dire as a natural disaster – the convention and visitors bureau (CVB) is the first place to turn for help in creating a contingency plan. Why? CVBs help with crisis management and conquering these upending challenges requires a proactive partner with destination knowledge, logistical thinking, creativity and professional connections: the CVB.
Creating Plan B – Avoiding the Unavoidable
Often “crises” are really “what ifs” that should prompt you to create a Plan B to keep in your back pocket. It’s all about foreseeing potential problems or issues, then engaging in proactive planning.
For instance, if your opening reception is scheduled outdoors, you’ll want to have a contingency plan for an indoor venue in case of rain – even if you’re meeting in the desert; the CVB can present workable options of which you may be unaware, such as a museum or historical home. Or perhaps, in order to secure the first tier city you want for your convention, you have to shorten your normal three day exhibit move-in to two; the CVB can work with the hotels and possibly provide a subsidy to cover the cost of overtime charges from your decorator, making the condensed move-in doable.
Booking outside of the block is a frequent and virtually uncontrollable practice since the advent of online booking through search engine sites. It causes many problems for the organization including inaccurate pickups which affect future negotiating power. Attrition charges levied on the reserved but unused sleeping rooms at the official hotels are costly and a waste of precious revenue. You probably can’t stop your attendees from booking around the block, but you can develop a Plan B with the CVB to find your missing rooms: if you suspect that pre-cutoff room sales are lagging because of around-the-block reservations, the CVB can work with the hotel community to help account for the “rogue” attendees.
Some examples of situations where you and the CVB can work together to create contingency plans include:
- Solving conflicts with a competing event
- Finding additional sleeping rooms, meeting rooms, function space, speakers
- Negotiating cut-off dates and attrition
- Working around undesirable or unavailable dates
- Covering unbudgeted additional costs
- Getting accurate room pickups
To create your Plan B, first anticipate your meeting’s challenges, then enlist the help of the CVB to prepare for them.
Dealing with the Unimaginable – Coping with a Real Crisis
While some situations are foreseeable hiccups that you and the CVB can address with a Plan B, others are real time emergencies. This is when the CVB shines, using all its resources, connections and expertise to relay up-to-the-minute information, roll out on-the-ground support, and find solutions to the ways your group is impacted by the crisis.
When a crisis actually occurs during a meeting, the CVB is a conduit to both the group and the facilities, dispensing accurate information and status reports to each, and pitching in with an on-site response team.
Communication from the Trusted Source
Since times of crisis often fuel media frenzies, precise, accurate information can get lost in translation; all events are subject to interpretation and interpretation leads to confusion, even before spin and political objectives get layered on top of reporting. You need to be able to separate fact from fiction. The most accurate, firsthand information – information that you can feel confident passing on to your attendees — comes from the CVB, not the media.
What do you do when a disaster, either natural or manmade, hits a destination which your group is scheduled to visit in the near future? That’s when the CVB kicks into high communication mode to keep the public and its meeting planner customers informed of the destination’s status on a minute-by-minute basis.
An Ounce of Prevention
As a planner responsible for the safety of the attendees and staff, you probably routinely ask your hotels for a copy of their emergency plan. The convention and visitors bureau has also developed an emergency plan with a clear delineation of the actions and communications to be instituted in the case of a crisis situation, so ask to see that plan as well.
Whether you’re developing a contingency Plan B or dealing with the effects of an emergency situation, look to the expertise of the CVB. Remember, no entity has stronger contacts within the local government, education, business, and hospitality communities than the CVB. Whatever the roadblock, the CVB can be called upon to assist in finding real solutions and organizing the many different sources you may need to call upon in the destination in times of crisis or concern.