Winter Storm Displaces Attendees During National Sales Meeting
Organization and swift action ensured the safety and well-being of 1,800 attendees
One of our clients, a global pharmaceutical company, holds their national sales meeting for approximately 1,800 attendees in different locations across the country each year. In February of 2014, the group decided that the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, located just outside of Washington DC, would be the perfect place to host this annual meeting. With the hotel’s ample meeting space, guestrooms, and proximity to multiple airports, the decision was easy.
As the meeting got underway, news came out about a major winter storm threatening the area. By the time we found out just how severe the storm would be, all of the attendees had traveled to the meeting. There were many questions about how attendees would get home, where they would stay at the conclusion of the meeting, etc. We went into crisis-management mode on day two.
Our team took immediate action to ensure the safety and well-being of the attendees. We quickly formed an emergency-management committee to manage this challenge. The committee included a Meeting Alliance Managing Partner, Meeting Alliance Project Manager, Meeting Alliance Data Coordinator/Communications Manager, local DMC lead, hotel National Sales Rep, Hotel CSM, Lead Security Agent, and our internal meetings client.
A plan of action was quickly developed. One of our team members was appointed to consistently monitor the weather and flights. We sourced additional hotel rooms in the Washington DC area, as we were going to have to displace approximately 500 attendees due to another group checking into the hotel. We were able to work diligently with the local DMC to secure transportation to make the transition between hotels smooth and seamless. We also worked closely with our counterparts at American Express Travel to re-ticket where we could while maintaining a rapidly changing manifest.
An e-blast distribution list was created to communicate with attendees as updates became available. In addition, a phone hotline was set up so the attendees could call and speak live with a member of the Meeting Alliance team.
We received numerous accolades from the client regarding our handling of the unforeseen circumstances. They were extremely pleased with how quickly we were able to form a plan to help diffuse a chaotic situation.
Ultimately the client determined that the meeting was a success despite the circumstances. Meeting goals were met. As soon as the attendees had a sense that the circumstances regarding the weather and their safety were being managed, they were able to relax and focus on the training at hand. Our team was able to keep the client focused on the program and instilled confidence that we would continue to provide outstanding service in an adverse situation. Steady and consistent communication kept attendees and our client updated and informed and the overall meeting was not compromised in the midst of a weather crisis.
When unpredictable situations arise, our clients rely on us to support their attendees ad internal staff. Our swift action, open communication and coordination with multiple moving parts played a crucial role in the success of the meeting.
“During a severe snowstorm at our recent meeting, the Meeting Alliance staff went from “great” to “exceptional,” Your team managed the situation superbly. Their decisive actions and recommendations were a true reflection of the experience they possess and the quality of people on your team! I would prefer not to be in the situation again, but if unexpected circumstances warranted, I would feel very comfortable having Meeting Alliance in the “foxhole” with me for the next “crisis.” Kudos to the onsite Meeting Alliance team for a job very well done!”
Senior Product Manager
Global Pharmaceutical Company
“I want to thank the Meeting Alliance company for their efforts during a severe snowstorm at our meeting in Washington DC. It was important that I get home due to a personal, family commitment. Your team was understanding and sympathetic and made heroic efforts to get me home as close to on time as possible. Thank you, Meeting Alliance!”
Sales Rep, Midwest Territory
Global Pharmaceutical Company
How to Plan a Successful Meeting in 30 Days
Time management, team work, and valued partnerships pull off an HCP meeting in under one month
For several years we have managed the Speaker Training program for a large pharmaceutical company in New Jersey. Short lead times and ever-changing information are not uncommon in this industry and something we’ve come to experience in this market. This particular event allowed us to show the client how truly capable we are, even with a lead time that seemed impossible. The client was bringing 100 HCPs to the Atlanta Marriott Buckhead and their contracts were not signed until 30 days prior to the start of the program, forcing the planning to begin much later than desired. In addition to the normal challenges that come with last minute planning for large numbers, we needed to be mindful of the pharmaceutical guidelines and regulations that come into play with HCP programs. To add to the time challenge, meeting materials were damaged during shipping and were considered unusable. Finally, a last minute request was received three hours prior to the start of the program for laptops to be available and working in 12 breakout rooms.
We looked at the set of circumstances and shifted into high gear to make sure the program would meet and exceed the client’s expectations. Due to the short planning window, our team started pre-planning the program in anticipation of the signed contracts. A Time & Events report was drafted along with a space grid, menus, sourcing offsite locations, and initial contact was made with our air partner to provide as much information ahead as possible.
A member of the onsite team, working under the direction of the program lead, contacted a local printer we had worked with previously and shared the damaged materials situation. Everyone worked quickly to get priority service underway, sending the materials electronically and communicating clear, concise expectations to the printer. Follow up was critical to the success of the project and a team member remained a fixture at the printer until all of the materials were completed and personally delivered to the hotel.
Partnerships also played a huge role in the quick turn-around times needed to pull everything together. Our audio visual provider at the hotel was able to secure the requested number of laptops in record time. They were all placed in the 12 breakout rooms, ready to go with ample time to spare.
Our food and beverage lead worked hand in hand with the hotel chef and banquet department to remain compliant with meal caps, while delivering unique, creative meals to the group with diverse requirements.
We were able to successfully plan and execute an entire program – booking travel, securing rooms, managing meeting space, and coordinating agendas – within 30 days. The planning and execution were seamless and the program was considered a success by the client, attendees, and meeting stakeholders.
Swift actions by the Meeting Alliance team enabled all materials to be delivered and ready for the start of the meeting. We followed up with the original printing vendor and requested a full refund for the damaged materials, which in turn helped to offset the cost of the last-minute rush job. We were also able to negotiate down the price of the rush printing job by 50% of what was originally quoted. In addition, the laptops were secured for the 12 breakout rooms within the three hour time frame. The program was successfully executed with 100% compliance of the pharmaceutical guidelines.
“On our last meeting in Atlanta, we produced a high volume of print and marketing support materials for a live speaker training meeting. These materials were damaged during shipment and were unusable for our program. The Meeting Alliance planner took control of the situation while on site and worked to get these materials printed and delivered – ON TIME – for our program. We could not believe how quickly and efficiently she handled the situation! What a professional! I look forward to working with Meeting Alliance again. You are responsive and professional.”
In-house Meeting Manager
“It was a joy to work with you and the Meeting Alliance team on the Live Speaker Training program that concluded yesterday. The planning was fast and furious, yet you covered every detail! It was impressive watching your team jump into action. I work with many meeting professionals and you guys stand out! I hope we can work together again soon.”
Convention Services Manager