There’s snow business like last-minute postponements

Cindy Matthews
Association Executive Director

The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting Old Man Winter will deal a mighty, snowy blow to most of the United States this winter. Will your association be ready for the potential event cancellations due to weather, and will YOU be ready to make the call?

When success rides on a do-or-delay decision, being properly equipped to make the right choice is as valuable as weather insurance.

Last winter I had a few events cancelled or postponed due to that dreaded four-letter word: SNOW. Although this was an event planner’s nightmare, one must remember that it’s important to keep calm when Mother Nature’s fury threatens.

When weighing the decision whether to reschedule an event, the number of attendees doesn’t matter. You must go through the same procedures and processes, no matter if 50 or 500 have registered. This happened to me last February when meteorologists had forecast white stuff—plus ice and the accompanying hazardous road conditions—just two days before a major awards dinner.

What to do?

I weighed the pros and cons of postponing, discussed the situation with my supervisor and contacted the hotel. Luckily, the chef had not placed the order for the food, so we were able to reschedule with no problems. We chatted about available dates, and then I contacted the hosting association’s chairman to relay the information and reach a decision.

Believe me when I say, this wasn’t an easy decision to make. The choice was made to postpone the event and reschedule (an excellent call because the roads ultimately ended up being a mess).

After contacting the hotel, it was time to get busy!

Telephone calls were made to the florist, the musician and the local print media to make sure the awards dinner congratulatory ads didn’t go to press yet. Staff got involved in helping to change dates on marketing materials and scheduled mass email blasts. (And thank goodness the program had not been printed yet, proving an easy fix.) The biggest and most time-consuming job was notifying all involved about the postponement and rescheduled date.

So, after all that was done, it was time to reorganize and get ready for the rescheduled date and hope that folks didn’t cancel due to the schedule change. Luckily the weather held out for us, and the event was a big success.

But winter’s wrath didn’t stop there. We had more inclement weather in February, resulting in the postponement of two more clients’ events. My OMG colleagues started chuckling and told me I had a black cloud over my head.

What did I learn from this? Three key things:

  • Establish a good working relationship with hotel staff.
  • When you an book event in the winter months, make sure you are up to speed on the hosting facility’s inclement weather policy.
  • Always have a Plan B.

And, remember, you can’t control the weather!