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IN JULY, I had the pleasure of attending portions of the Global Events Partners' annual retreat in Los Angeles. At this four-day event, 80 representatives of Washington-based GEP's network of DMCs and 100 of their clients met to share ideas and plan the future.

A session that I found particularly valuable was “Issues of Today — How Are You Getting Prepared for the Next Big Event?” led by Phelps Hope, CMP, head of Atlanta-based Absolutely Atlanta. Hope spoke candidly about how the painful aftermath of 9/11 forced his DMC to adapt to a radically new marketplace, and how the changes he and his team made have paid off. Attendees did the same, and here are some of the strategies — from big-picture to specific detail — they came up with:

  • Get emergency contact information in advance for all participants and for local hospitals.
  • Hire private security or FBI agents to inspect and approve all exhibitor trucks and pieces of equipment prior to load-in.
  • Educate clients on the society and culture of destinations to ensure their comfort in the face of global conditions.
  • Pay better attention to detail in programs; become more anticipatory about what could go wrong in the current climate.
  • Prepare for Plan B, e.g., have a “driving” location as the second option if the first-choice long-distance option falls through.
  • Sell ideas and solutions to clients rather than just incentives. Make sure there is a purpose to the meeting.
  • Ask suppliers, “What can you do for us?”
  • Fine-tune fixed costs to allow your business to survive challenges.
  • Offer discounts for prompt payment.
  • Take advantage of hotels offering no-cancellation or no-attrition in their contracts.
  • Think strategically; become creative with cutbacks — e.g., higher room rates in place of less food and beverage.
  • Contract freelancers, rather than hiring full-time staff, to help during peak season.
  • Install a “family phone” at the registration desk that all attendees can use for free to call home and tell loved ones that they have arrived safely.
  • Always carry $20 to $100 in local currency.
  • Decentralize office and account information.
  • Avoid saying, “It's not my job.”
  • Keep a positive attitude — life is short.

Nobody wants to dwell on planning for the worst. But doing so helps us deliver the best.

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