An old proverb says: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” From experience, I can tell you: never say this to an event planner! Sure, sometimes we’ll have horrible weather, but thanks to Murphy’s law, it will likely be on the day of your event. That’s why a typical event organizer starts the planning process by first trying to imagine all the things that can go wrong, starting with bad weather.
In the wake of the Iceland volcano eruption as airports began cancelling flights, the press had a field day covering the story of stranded passengers. My first thought was how this would affect events around the world.
I can easily imagine what the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the organizers of the 114th Boston Marathon, felt when they realized that their “baby” might be short of 600 runners from Europe unable to get to Boston because of volcanic eruptions in Iceland. “We try to prepare for any eventuality, but volcanic eruptions have not been on the list.” – confessed Guy Morse, Executive Director of the BAA in a recent New York Times interview.
The Volcano eruption shook all corners of the entertainment world. Paramount and Marvel had to move the world premiere of “Iron Man 2″ from London to Los Angeles “due to the continuing travel uncertainty”; the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival had to go without three British acts: Cribs, Bad Lieutenant and Delphi; and designer/director Tom Ford was unable to attend the GLAAD Media Awards in L.A., where his film “A Single Man” was honored as the year’s outstanding wide-release film.
It’s a small world, but who knew that there is so little room to move around. If I was planning an event somewhere in Tokyo by Mount Fuji, or Mexico City by Popocatépetl, or on the south side of the Island of Hawaii, I would no doubt think of including special instructions in my contingency plan on what to do in the event a volcano erupts. But now, you have to consider this weather surprise even while organizing an event in the middle of the North American Prairies.
According to the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, the number of catastrophic events has more than doubled since the 1980s.The irony of our modern world: with all the scientific and technological progress, we become more vulnerable to weather surprises, even though disasters themselves are not getting worse (for example, Eyjafjallajokull is much smaller then major eruptions like Mount St. Helens in 1980, or the volcano eruption in Indonesia in 1883, which killed more than 40,000 people and was felt around the world).
While going global, we are getting closer to each other and so connected, that it makes us more dependable on the weather conditions happening in the opposite part of the world.
In the forever-changed landscape, we don’t have another option but to change our perception of how event and meeting industry should operate. There are also many examples of success stories in overcoming the unfortunate circumstances. According to Dody Tsiantar and his latest article in Fortune magazine “There’s a silver lining to every cloud, even the one made up of volcanic ash.”
Cisco vice president and TelePresence general manager Charles Stucki, who was stuck in London on his way to Oslo, closed the $3.3 billion acquisition of Tandberg, a Norwegian videoconferencing firm, via teleconference. Cisco also took advantage of Europe’s volcanic moment to get new customers with discounted offers to try out the equipment.
Bridge-Talk, the Israeli video and audio conferencing firm, got 80 new clients — most of them Israeli executives who couldn’t get to scheduled meetings in Europe and tried out their services for the first time.
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was stuck in London, unable to attend the 39th Juno Awards in Newfoundland to receive a humanitarian award. He too, ended up appearing at the event via a satellite TV feed.
So, check the latest weather forecast. Tornadoes and hail will pound several states this week. In the next couple days multiple, possibly long track tornadoes and scattered thunderstorms will most likely hit Southern States. All flights definitely will be canceled, but should we really postpone our next business meeting in North Florida, or just do it online?