Meetings: Should you have a backup plan?

Not all meetings go according to plan – so should you have a backup plan just in case? The answer is yes, every time. Many meeting planners have learned the hard way!

Always have an alternative plan in place, whether for small inconveniences, such as needing to print a few name badges on site, or for more major issues, like a key speaker not turning up.

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Although it’s impossible to cover every eventuality, work with staff at your meeting venue and devise a “Plan B” in case life throws you a curve ball.

According to surveys, 37% of employees feel unproductive meetings create the highest costs for their company in terms of working hours wasted. If you’ve planned a meeting and it goes wrong, you’re adding to the statistics when attendees are sitting with nothing to do – they could be at their desk being productive!

How can you prepare a meeting backup plan?

The best way of preparing a backup plan is to envisage common mishaps and create a workaround. While there are always factors beyond anyone’s control, preparing for common issues is a way of minimising disruption, should something unexpected happen.

One issue that can cause late arrivals and leave delegates feeling flustered is insufficient parking. To prepare for this, establish a designated location for overflow parking and have signs prepared to direct drivers in the right direction.

Another problem is when the food and drink run out before everyone has been fed. There can be a very narrow margin between ordering just enough, or running out too soon. Liaise with your venue and ask for their help to decide how much food you’ll need.

One thing that every meeting planner dreads is a no-show speaker. This can be a tough one to solve if it’s someone that everyone is particularly looking forward to hearing. However, cars break down and train services are disrupted, so nothing is set in stone.

Have a chat with your venue in advance and see if they can help come up with a list of backup speakers to call in an emergency. Try to have someone on standby from your own organisation, so they can have something prepared should they need to step in at the eleventh hour.

Prioritise your tasks

Focus on the issues that would cause the biggest impact if they went wrong such as any possible problems related to attendees’ safety, a lack of power outlets, inadequate bathroom facilities, power loss, or an unexpected medical emergency, etc.

Always liaise with the meeting venue to see what backup plans they have. For example, in the event of power loss, do they have a generator onsite that will kick in?

In case a medical emergency should arise, ask the venue to show you where paramedics and emergency responders will come in and make sure they would have a clear path.

Should there be a fire, or another reason to evacuate the building, always find out where the emergency exits are and where fire personnel would come into the building. This will keep people safe and disruption to a minimum.

You should always establish a chain of command for communications, not only with your team, but also with the staff at your chosen venue. This way, if there is a mishap or emergency of any kind, the relevant people will be notified to communicate information through the ranks.

No matter how well you plan every detail, you can never foresee everything, but you can make sure you are as prepared as possible.

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