A Conference, a Hurricane, and a Decision to Make

Unexpected weather can derail event plans. See how we helped an association make the difficult decision to cancel a conference for a weather event.

The past few weeks have certainly been eye opening in terms of how storms can impact our society. A few weeks ago, I had family in from Houston on an already scheduled visit. A few days into the trip Hurricane Harvey takes a direct hit on Houston. Luckily, they escaped any damage from the storm and could travel back home on time. But the week of watching the devastation from afar for them was nerve-racking.

Fast forward to this week and Hurricane Irma making her way toward Florida. As luck would have it, we have a client-partner scheduled to have their Annual Conference in Orlando beginning on Sunday, September 1. I would be lying if I did not spend all week with one eye glued to the news about the potential direction of the storm.

What were we going to do? Is the hotel going to call this Force Majeure? Can we cancel? Reschedule? What do we tell our members? Do we want to send staff into the danger zone? These questions and more were spinning through my head. As the week progressed we brought our team together regularly, discussing our options. We spoke with our hotel multiple times a day. Our Board was in constant communication on email and called in daily to discuss the situation.

After the discussions of the day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we got an email out to all attendees, sponsors and speakers to let them know the latest. Whether there was new information or not, we made sure we kept in communication with them.

Thursday came with a more detailed forecast showing that the Hurricane was going to impact our meeting location. At the same time, we saw our own staff flights cancelled, more attendees cancelled and the airport announced it would close on Saturday evening and through Sunday, our major arrival days. By mid-day Thursday it was clear we had to decide to postpone the event.

We continued to discuss our options with the hotel, who were true partners in the process. In fact, having them available to discuss at the drop of a hat and their willingness to be as flexible in the process as possible made all the difference in our final decision to postpone the event.

As we await to see how the Hurricane impacts Florida I believe we have made the right decision. We could not ask our attendees, staff or others to travel to an area that could have potentially dangerous weather. As we begin to plan for the rescheduled event we keep those in the path of the storm in our thoughts and hope that all stay safe.

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