If you work in events and have a prevailing feeling that the weather gods hate you, I’ve got some good news: they don’t. Actually the chances are quite strong that they don’t even know you (most of the time they’re pre-occupied with cursed sports franchises and family vacations). The more likely scenario is that you just happen to plan a lot of events, and the law of averages catches up with you every once in a while. Nevertheless, dealing with the potential impact of serious weather — especially when you’re in event crunch time — can be tricky. So here are five tips to help you navigate through to sunnier skies.
- Know your Contract.
Every event contract should have a Force Majeure clause. A force majeure (French for “superior force") clause is a contract provision that allows either party to suspend or terminate the performance of its obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance inadvisable, commercially impracticable, illegal, or impossible. So if for example a blizzard prevents your attendees from traveling in for your event, force majeure could be in play. The challenge is that force majeure clauses are often worded differently, and even slight variations can lead to gray areas. In New York City for instance many event venues only consider force majeure to be in effect once there’s been a declared State of Emergency. Make sure this clause is fully clear from the onset and you’ll avoid confusion later on.
- Communicate Constantly.
If you’re dealing with weather affecting your event, your guests are dealing it with too. Get out ahead of communication to let attendees know the latest updates and plans moving forward, and don’t limit reach-out to email. Update your event website, use social media, and consider making calls as well. There are plenty of companies that offer mass call and/or texting options if time is really of the essence.
- Push up the Planning Timeline.
Talk to the venue about loading in early (or the day/night before), and to vendors about the same. Good partners will always want to be flexible, and sometimes an earlier load-in makes their lives easier too. Being ahead in your planning timeline leading into your event will give you the ability to focus on unexpected issues as they arise.
- Contingencies for Content.
Have contingency plans in place for anyone who has a speaking role at your event and may unexpectedly cancel or incur delays. If you’re producing a meeting or conference, pre-establish alternatives for individual presentations. If speakers are participating as panelists, have your production team ready to remove chairs and other equipment from the stage. For galas and award shows, identify back-ups for presenters and those accepting awards. Stage VIPs should always know exactly who to contact on event day, with that individual being readily available to troubleshoot.
- Staff Up.
Assume that the weather may also prevent your staff from showing up on time. Consider hiring more staff than you need, just so you’re prepared for attrition. Being overstaffed is a good problem to have, and there are always ways to put additional people to work on-site.
If you plan enough events the chances are you’re going to have your fair share of weather-related battles. Stay proactive, stick to some key best practices and remember that the weather gods have bigger things to worry about anyway!