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What's Your Plan B?

Hard to believe that we are only a few short weeks into winter with all of the plan shuffling that the weather has been causing. If the last several weeks are any indication of the...

What’s Your Plan B?

Hard to believe that we are only a few short weeks into winter with all of the plan shuffling that the weather has been causing. If the last several weeks are any indication of the amount of contingency planning that will be required this winter, we will be kept extraordinarily busy! The Philadelphia area looks to be spared this week, but our neighbors to the south are being slammed with what is being called a "once-in-a-generation" snow and ice storm starting today.

The nature of having to implement a weather-based contingency plan is that you usually don’t get a lot of advance warning. But there are steps you can take to remove stress, chaos, and confusion from the process.

Plan Your Plan A and Plan B at the Same Time

You should always have a plan B in mind when you are planning your plan A. No matter where your event is taking place and no matter what time of year of it, Mother Nature always has the potential to decide to crash the party. Knowing that you have a back-up plan that can be rapidly deployed will minimize the disruption and stress that her presence can cause, for both the planner and the attendees.

Tell People You Have a Plan B

Everyone involved in the event - planning team, executive team, attendees, venue, etc. - should be aware that a Plan B does at least exist. The difference will be the level of detail that you communicate to each audience, for example:

  • Planning team and venue - your core planning team and your venue contacts should be fully engaged in developing any and all contingency plans, and should know the details of the plan and the conditions under which the plan(s) may be implemented.
  • Executive team - you need to ensure that the executive team is comfortable, and you can do this by making sure they know 2 things: (1) there is a plan, and (2) here is when it could be implemented. These two key pieces of information will convey that you are on top of things and ready to handle any curve balls.
  • Attendees - attendees may be the simplest of all: they just need to know that there is a plan. In its simplest form, an inclement weather statement like “in the event of inclement weather, a statement regarding the event will be posted on the event website and emailed to attendees on (date/time).”

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Yes, you should communicate your plan. And then communicate it again. And again. Everyone knows you have a Plan B because you communicated that in advance. Once it’s time to implement Plan B, we would argue that there is no such thing as over-communication. You should communicate to your audience in all of the ways you told them you would (i.e. website and email) and then also communicate via any other methods you have available. If attendees opted in to receive text alerts about the event, send them a text. If you have a social media presence, post it there. If you can make personal phone calls to attendees, get on the phone. Seem like a lot of details to pull together at the last minute? It won’t be, because all of the planning was complete for this possibility long ago. Right?

Managing Expectations

So much of the chaos and confusion that comes with not having a plan is avoided when you have a Plan B and people know about it. But, in spite of your best efforts, you will always have people who are not on the same page. Having a strong plan to point to will help diffuse these situations quickly, but you need to manage expectations appropriately by clearly stating what they should expect from you and when they should expect it.

Your Turn:

How do you communicate your contingency plans?