It was right around this time last year when we blogged about not saving planning details until the last minute because you never know what can happen at that last minute.
We’re back to say that we were right.
We were in the midst of wrapping up final details for a large conference in October when some pretty serious health stories were dominating the news cycle. The reality was that none of these issues were likely to affect our conference, but the media frenzy surrounding the story and the rumblings of travel bans were great enough to get our attention and make some adjustments.
The great news was that because all of our important pre-planning was already complete, we had the time and mindshare to make simple adjustments that went a long way in easing any concerns that an attendee may have had.
Focus on Being Well
Even without health stories dominating headlines, traveling and a difference in routine can sometimes cause a loss of focus on well-being. With the conference in October, coinciding with the rough beginning of cold and flu season, we took some steps to raise awareness of being well while traveling:
- A very simple one: reminding attendees to wash their hands often.
- We changed one of the buffet lines to be completely served by attendants who are trained in food safety. This provided an option for attendees who are not particularly fond of touching buffet lids and serving utensils that dozens or hundreds of people had handled before them.
- In high traffic areas that had to serve hundreds of attendees in a very short amount of time (like a coffee station), we had attendants preparing the beverages and setting the cups out so attendees could grab a cup of coffee or tea, along with portable and single-serve accompaniments like cream and sugar, in a very quick fashion. We designed the coffee station this way to eliminate the “germ concern” but the greatest benefit was actually the speed at which we could serve so many people in such a short break time.
- Whenever possible, we arranged for pre-packaged, grab and go food items to minimize the handling that attendees needed to do.
Given that the actual concern we were dealing with wasn’t a serious risk of illness, and instead was just the effect of media hype, we didn’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to make these changes. But, if we had left key planning details until the end, we would not have had the time or focus necessary to make these changes, or we would have caused many people involved a lot of stress in reacting to these changes in a haphazard and chaotic manner, instead of proactively working together to make positive changes for our attendees.
Moral of the story? Don’t save planning details until the last minute … you never know what’s going to happen!!
This statement became even truer once we arrived in on-site and had our next emergency to face … stay tuned!