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Expecting The Unexpected: How To Plan For Event Emergencies

by Amaron Curtis, Senior Event Coordinator
Meeting Planning: The Art Of Preparedness From Extreme Weather To Natural Disasters

Meeting planners are the jack of all trades, working with multiple vendors and venues to create a seamless and memorable experience for their attendees. This group knows how to put out fires with both grit, and grace.

Being the organizers that they are, meeting planners understand the best way to prepare for an event is to always plan ahead! However, if there is one thing that meeting planners know, when it comes to the weather you should always expect the unexpected. Even if you aren’t a seasoned meeting planner, there are many ways to plan and prepare for unforeseen emergencies, either before or during meetings and conferences. Here are some tried and true tips for handling emergency event situations, from extreme weather conditions to natural disasters.

Pivoting Flight Delays & Weather Delays

Rain delays, high winds, and hurricanes are the most common interruptions to travel. If you are planning an event or meeting for a large group of people, it is always beneficial to work with a travel agency or destination management company (DMC).

Travel Agencies & Destination Management Companies

Good travel agents should have access to airline databases and can work closely with airlines and vendors to make the most up-to-date changes and adjustments, which will prove to be a valuable asset if you are experiencing weather issues or travel snafus.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when it comes to working with travel agencies and destination management companies:

  • Tip #1: When working with a travel agency, make sure they offer after-hours service so that you can easily connect with an agent outside of normal business hours, in the case that an emergency arises. Not sure how to pick a good travel agent? The New York Times has compiled some handy tips on how to pick the perfect agent.
  • Tip #2: When possible, try to book refundable fares for flights. By purchasing that extra layer of security  f something goes awry, you will not be going out of pocket or dealing with costly flight changes.
  • Tip #3: Depending on the size and breadth of your event, consider working with a Destination Management Company. DMC’s have relationships with local vendors and can assist in the planning and execution of your event. The Association for Destination Management Executives can help determine the best company for your group.

Thinking Ahead: Hurricanes & Natural Disasters

It’s the job of a meeting planner to protect attendees and their organization should an emergency arise. Look closely at contracts to make sure your organization is protected in case of emergency, know the numbers for the local law enforcement, and research seasonal weather before choosing your venue.

Hurricane season typically runs from June 1st to November 30th, peaking in late August and September. If your event falls within that time frame or close to it, here are two tips to keep in mind to help you prepare your event for hurricane season:

  • Tip #1: When planning an event during or around the hurricane season time frame, try to avoid holding events in the cities that are most frequently affected by tropical storms and hurricanes, based on HurricaneCity's City Rankings. HurricaneCity, one of the most respected and well-known hurricane tracking websites, provides tools and resources to keep you up-to-date on the latest hurricane news and outlook such as live streaming and video coverage, annual hurricane predictions made by the experts at the beginning of each season, and an extensive City Database where you can uncover statistical information on effects from hurricanes and tropical storms in or near specific cities to learn more about its hurricane history.
  • Tip #2: Double check your venue's hurricane policy and Force Majeure clause. Some hotels will allow rescheduling within a year and some will even issue refunds. If possible, choose hotels that are flexible and have emergency weather plans, ensuring there will be enough food and water should your guests need to stay at a hotel for an extended period of time.

While natural disasters such as mudslides, forest fires, volcanoes, and civil disruptions are not in the forefront of our minds when we’re juggling the myriad of different tasks involved in pulling together a stellar event, it is vital that we have a plan in place just in case we do experience extreme weather. Creating your own crisis management event plan for dealing with natural disasters is, however, very important and something that you must include in your keynote speaker event planning check list moving forward.

Here are two tips to help you prepare for any unforeseen natural disasters:

  • Tip #1: For larger events, contact the local fire marshal to participate in your pre-event walk through, or plan a separate walk through of the venue space prior to your event, if the fire marshal is not able to attend the walk through that you initially schedule with your point of contact at the event venue. Fire marshals can assist in and approve event layouts to ensure the best possible plan should an emergency arise. For smaller events, it’s important to have telephone numbers for local law enforcement saved in a place where you can quickly access them.
  • Tip #2: While working with your event venue contacts, ask about their emergency evacuation plan before you start to prepare for and plan out your upcoming event, and make sure to ask them to cover it again during your walk through prior to the event. If you’re organizing a large conference, make sure that all exits are clearly marked. OSHA has a great step-by-step guide emergency action plan in case of emergencies to review and reference back to as you begin to plan more events at different locations and at different times throughout the year.

Insurance For Events & Conferences

Yes, there is insurance for conferences and it’s something to consider investing in if you’re planning a large-scale event. Though sometimes confusing, event insurance is a necessary safeguard for meeting planners looking to keep themselves and their clients protected and out of court. Event insurance can cover and protect meeting planners in everything from property damage to weather-related issues and anything in between.

Most companies and planners purchase general liability insurance, which provides broad coverage for such incidents as people slipping and falling or a faulty product passed out in a gift bag. However, meeting planners can purchase additional coverage that protects them from such things as liquor liability and event cancellation. Like most forms of insurance, it can be customized to fit your specific event and unique program needs. 

Here are four tips to keep in mind when it comes to conference and meeting insurance:

  • Tip #1: Do your research. Many vendors and venues already have insurance, so make sure you ask if your vendor and/or venue already has insurance coverage prior to signing any contracts.
  • Tip #2: Speak with the appropriate department head who deals with insurance coverage at your company to determine what your company's existing insurance policy covers. In most business policies, event coverage is automatic, so you're most likely already covered under your company's current insurance policy. Take the extra time to make sure that your company's insurance carrier is financially stable and has a well-defined program for special events insurance. And always do your due diligence and spend time doing research to determine what makes the most sense for your specific event.
  • Tip #3: There are many different types of insurance you may want to consider purchasing for your event, so it's important to learn about each of the different types of event insurance available to you and find out why each one would be useful for your event. Two of the most common types of event insurance are General Liability insurance, which protects a company and all parties involved in the event-the planner, venue, caterers, etc., for  losses due to bodily injury or property damage caused by the insured's employees, and Cancellation insurance, which protects you in case of unforeseen situations such as inclement weather, including hurricane, or something else that requires you to cancel an event.
  • Tip #4: No matter the size of your event, how much time you have to plan your event, or how well prepared you are, you never know when your worst-case scenario could become your reality. According to Velarde of Triton Productions, it's the small things that cause the most problems if you're not properly covered. So even the most basic coverage policy could prove to be a big help in the long run. Having the proper insurance can make the difference between a minor bump in the road and a complete detour.

Cancellation Due To Weather

Hopefully, you have signed contracts detailing what will happen in the event of a cancellation. Be mindful of the financial liabilities should you need to cancel, but most importantly make a decision that ensures the safety of everyone involved.

Here are two tips to keep in mind when it comes to event cancellations due to the weather:

  • Tip #1: Stay in communication with all of your vendors. It could be that it’s your vendor that chooses to cancel or pull out of a contract. Be sure to stay in touch and ask questions about how they are going to be able to handle any issues that may arise.
  • Tip #2: If you need to cancel an event, take the time to craft a carefully composed e-mail to attendees. Be sure to hit the right chords and share the relevant reasons for cancellation and any next steps that need to be taken. Eventbrite has a great step-by-step guide for you to follow if you are ever faced with this task.

The Importance Of Communication

When an emergency arises attendees and your superiors will look to you to provide guidance on the best course of action.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when it comes to communicating during any event emergency: 

  • Tip #1Stay calm but be assertive—Your demeanor will affect how others are handling the situation.
  • Tip #2Use the information you have to make the best possible decision for how to proceed with your event given the unfortunate circumstances.
  • Tip #3: Transparency is key. Always try to be up front with your event or meeting attendees, but don’t overwhelm them by sharing too much information.Attendees will appreciate that you are trying to keep them safe while also keeping them informed.

we've got your back

By working with a trusted speakers bureau with a reputation for strong customer service like Leading Authorities, you will always have a partner to help navigate through those rare but unavoidable occasions when you experience an unexpected event emergency or need urgent assistance to help resolve an issue with your event.

Our team of seasoned program consultants and event coordinators are always on stand-by and will make sure that they are available to assist you with any issues or questions that may pop up before or during your event, day or night. In fact, our team shares their personal cell phone numbers with each of our clients, so that they can get in touch with us if anything regarding their event needs urgent attention or assistance. We also provide our clients with a list of additional points of contact from the Leading Authorities' team along with their email addresses and phone numbers in case they are unable to reach their dedicated event coordinator right away.

We'd love to help you find your ideal keynote speaker, coordinate your speaker and event logistics, and put a plan in place to prepare for any unforeseeable event emergencies. If you’re interested in learning more about the dynamic and diverse roster of keynote speakers we represent, or if you have a more specific speaking spot that you need help filling for an upcoming event, contact our team!

Our team can also curate a customized list of speaker recommendations tailored for your specific event based on the topic, theme, and audience, etc., saving you a lot of time and energy that can be used to ensure your event is successful. 

Set up a complimentary, no-obligation call with one of our experienced program consultants and receive a curated list of speaker recommendations customized for your specific event based on your initial conversation.

You can also fill out the form below, email us, call 855-827-0943, or live chat with a member of our team right now.

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