The social and business rollercoaster of the last few weeks has left a record number of people jobless and even more wondering how they could have prepared for such an unpredictable event. Surely, the effect that coronavirus (COVID-19) has had on the events industry, and the hospitality industry more widely, is a curveball for the history books. But that doesn’t mean it is time to throw your hands in the air in despair.

Carol Davis, owner of CPER Productions & Incentives specializes in contingency planning for experiential events and incentives and she has some suggestions that could make the next black swan a little bit less jarring.

According to Davis, there are four types of events meeting planners need prepare for: force majeure, literally acts of God; man-made interruptions, such as car crashes; continuity of operations plans, such as internet interruptions and street closures; and medical issues.

Think Like a Pessimist (Even if You Aren’t)

“Planning and designing for the unknown means understanding the very basic structure, then round tabling with anyone and everyone to get their wildest ideas of what could go right and what could go wrong. Understanding and accepting that only a small percentage of things can be controlled means having an understanding that there is a great deal and high percentage of things that can go wrong. It is part of the structure of planning anything,” Davis said.

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She recommends keeping a log of everything you and your team has thought of that could go wrong and making it part of your contingency plan. Nothing is off limits.

No “What If” Is Too Small

When it comes to the world of contingencies, there is no “what if” too small. The key is thinking that literally anything can happen, that is a surefire way to always be prepared.

Davis recalled a time where she mapped out a plan for an indoor mall. This mall had a small airport nearby, so she wrote an exercise for a small plane crash landing on top of the roof. Eight months later, a car veered off the freeway, that was just a bit taller than the roof of the mall and crashed into the store below. Although it seems like an unlikely scenario and it wasn’t a plane, the mall was ready for this man-made situation.

Quite literally anything can happen in the world of events and you can only be so ready. Even the most thorough contingency planner could miss a possibility, as there is virtually no limit to what could happen. But the more protocols you have thought out in advance, the more likely you will be able to deal effectively with what occurs.

Last year, Davis had an event in Italy, during which there was a hiccup. “Even though prep was very thorough, information from the country and its citizens was not exactly forth coming, therefore it was not until I was there during the 2nd week that I learned all banks in Northern Italy operate under Communistic Banking Concept and that to get money I either had to work with 200 Euros per day or travel 2 hours from Italy to France to get funds.”

What to Consider in Your Plan

There are several things Davis recommends you keep in mind when coming up with your contingency plan.

  • Always consider Murphy’s Law. Even the best plans can go wrong so prepare for it.
  • Even if you think it can’t happen, include it in your list.
  • Learn to appreciate and enjoy thinking of the diabolical.
  • Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions!
  • The time to be afraid is when you don’t have a contingency plan.