Can you really plan for a crisis?

It’s been quite a couple of weeks for our country with the back to back lashing of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Not to mention we have Jose sitting out in the ocean not knowing, quite yet, which way he is headed. The devastation we have all seen on the news is something I can’t quite imagine as I have not lived through anything like this in my lifetime. It has brought up something for me though related to event planning and that is: can you really plan for a crisis?

The answer to this is yes AND no.


Make sure you have a plan in place. Even the smallest details can help in time of crisis. Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

Yes, you can plan for a crisis by simply purchasing event insurance and making sure that you have a plan in place. That plan should include information about the closest hospital; what you will do for attendees if they are stranded with you and what you can do for them if they aren’t quite there yet and stuck traveling; emergency contact information for your attendees; a back up plan to communicate; what will the property do in case of emergencies? What is their contingency plan. You can ask and should ask NO MATTER THE SIZE OF YOUR GROUP! Most contracts you sign should include a force majeure clause and include ‘acts of god’ which weather would fall into place and there would also be a provision for those traveling to the event are they hindered from attending. Most importantly make sure that you have your legal counsel review! Show that you’ve done your due diligence. In my 9 years with one organization we did not purchase event insurance, mostly because we were priced out. It is rather expensive however, we were diligent about where we would book and the season taking into account city-wide events happening in and around the area.

If you simply plan small events at your own house for your company or event at a local restaurant or facility you need to be asking the same types of questions and make sure you have a way to communicate in case of emergency. Make sure you have the proper insurances set up for your business.

Let’s talk weather. You can certainly try to plan in advance when it comes to the weather. Perhaps you do cruise meetings. I would say you might want to book the Caribbean in an off season not during the typical hurricane season (august-november). Are you planning for a meeting in the mountains of CO during December or January-one of their peak times for snow? You would want to plan in advance for inclement weather. Take into account where your attendees are traveling from and will it be easy for them to re-book or catch a different flight? A crisis isn’t simply hurricane related, it can come down to ‘acts of terror’ that we have seen happen all over the world lately.

And NO, you can’t plan for a crisis. Most of the time the crisis’ we see aren’t ones in which we can plan for making it harder to justify spending the time to put a contingency plan in place–just in case. It’s been 16 years since 9/11 and no one could have planned for that type of event to happen in and to our country. I was reminded yesterday on the anniversary that earlier that morning (16 years ago) I was in my conference room preparing name badges for a Judicial dinner function. We were welcoming high profile attendees and many judges from across the state of VA and as we were putting the badges together we just happened to have the TV on. You know the big ‘boob tube’ type sitting on a cart with a VHS machine beneath. I think we were all in shock not knowing what was occurring however, we realized immediately that our event would need to be cancelled. We did what we could in the short amount of time we had before being escorted out of our government building for fear that an attack would happen there. There was no way to prepare for something of that nature. We did however, have a plan in place to talk to one another and the hotel.

This past week with all the models showing so many different tracks there wasn’t any easy way to prepare for the effect of Irma on Florida and some of the surrounding states. It wasn’t until late in the week that we even saw that the local airports and some of the major attractions in the Orlando area had closed. So, really it’s not easy to prepare for a crisis but there are small steps we can take to make sure we stay on top of anything that could be a disruption to our events.

Be diligent, make sure you know what’s happening around your event locally, regionally, and nationally. Try to prepare your teams the best way you can and provide the most amount of resources. We live in a digital world–do you even remember your plan of action when there were no cell phones or digital way to communicate? Make that plan now–your attendees and staff will thank you for it god forbid you have to implement.


The Power of the Emotional Appeal

With all of the emojis flying through cyberspace these days, we’ve been taking actual emotions for granted in how we communicate and market products and services these days. Advertising has come a long way from the Mean Joe Greene Coke and Crying Indian type commercials of my generation and with our attention spans becoming shorter and shorter, it’s become a huge challenge to make our appeals touch the hearts of our prospects and customers. However, when some of these do show up on our virtual radar screens – most notably our Facebook feeds – it’s hard to look away and easy to get drawn in to a truly compelling story that jerks tears from our eyes and melts our hearts for a fleeting moment before we turn back to our busy lives. The best examples I’ve seen in recent years are these two insurance commercials: Daddy Lies and Unsung Hero.

I’ve unearthed an example of an emotional appeal penned by yours truly that generated an impressive result. The backstory is that I spent about four months searching for my first home in the Northern Virginia area and after looking at many communities and about 80 homes in-person, I narrowed my search to a specific community. This was during the housing bubble of the early 2000s and home values and prices were rising daily and most homes were receiving multiple bids that often would rise above the asking price.

An ideal home came on the market late on Friday, June 13, 2003 and after reviewing the listing and some amateur photos I knew it was what I was looking for. I arrived early Saturday to meet my agent and take a look at the home. I was the first to view the home and as I entered the owners were leaving after sweeping the last bits of dust and dirt into their dustpan at the front door. I introduced myself and thanked them for preparing the house for my viewing. The house was perfect and I told my agent we needed to go to their office to fill out the paperwork to put a bid on it. We did. As the agent prepared the forms, I asked if I was allowed to add a letter to the package for the owners to read along with my offer. My agent thought that was a good idea, so I typed it out on one of their computers, printed and signed it. It took all of 5 minutes. The package was sent over to the seller’s agent and we waited. They had an open house the next day and said they would not review any offers until after that. I learned later that there were seven offers with bids escalating above the asking price. Mine was not the highest bid ☹. Here’s the letter I wrote,

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Dear Mr. And Mrs. ———-,

Thank you so much for allowing me the pleasure of viewing your beautiful home Saturday morning. It was a pleasure meeting you both.

After looking at many homes in the last few months – some even in your neighborhood – I’ve learned that first impressions are extremely important. My first impression of your home was that it is treated like one of the family. The condition of the home demonstrates that you care greatly for it and I assure you I would be interested in carrying on that tradition as a first-time homeowner.

I’m a director of membership at a national non-profit organization in Alexandria and if I’m lucky enough to meet the right woman and start a family, I’d be proud to be able to offer them a home as beautiful as yours when that time comes.

I greatly appreciate your considering my enclosed offer and enjoyed touring your home.


Daniel Ratner

My agent called me late that Sunday night to inform me that the sellers accepted my bid and wanted to sell me their home. The older gentleman was an original owner of the home and had been an amateur architect and had put his blood, sweat, and tears into making unique modifications to the house. He had a hard time deciding to sell it and his wife admitted to me at the closing that it was my letter that convinced them both to sell to me regardless of any other bids they received. It was my first home and I lived there for seven years. I ended up getting married and living with my wife there for about a year before moving.

Take the time to make your marketing message an emotional one if you truly want someone to pay attention to it. Get into their hearts and they may fall in love with you and your product.

How to break free from trying to please

We love to hear from our clients and followers on our social media channel and via comments to our blog and podcast. Recently one of our followers asked us on Facebook the following question that we thought was incredibly timely and something many can relate to:

“How do I break free from trying to please everyone? There’s a branch of my business that I’ve been doing since 2012. I am a valuable asset to this company’s team and they need me, but I just dread doing the work now and I always put it off.” 

So really, what it boils down to is how can you say NO to taking on every new project that comes your way when it doesn’t quite fit with what the business does?

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

Many of us (myself included at times) are pleasers and like to make sure we are always saying yes so that we don’t hurt someone’s feelings or lose out on a client. Yet, saying yes isn’t always going to be the best option. We have to first always remember that it’s about business. What it’s not–is personal. So, first things first, how can you really justify saying no to something? For that answer you need to look at your business plan or strategic plan and goals. Is the job you are currently doing or being asked to do fit within any of the parameters? If it does then you can easily continue with it around the parameters that work for YOU. It’s your business. If it fits and you don’t want to continue on it’s ok to say that things have changed and you are unable to devote the necessary time due to an influx of new clients. I mean, that’s not such a bad thing!

If you happen to work for or are part of a non-profit then look to your strategic plan to see if the project aligns. Many boards love to add new projects to the staffs’ plates yet they may not align with any of the goals set forth by the strategic plan. If that’s the case and you are wondering why, it’s time to talk to your manager.

As a sole business owner repeat after me:

It’s OK to say NO
It’s OK to say NO
It’s OK to say NO

If you want and need to say no (and break free from pleasing) look at ways that you can soften the impact. Perhaps have a list of referrals to other small business owners that are in a similar line of work. Maybe you set up a commission structure to help one another. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be authentic and remember it’s professional not personal–it’s ok to say no.  Ultimately, if you aren’t happy doing what you’re doing then the product may not be as great as you want it either.

I have to share that one of the hardest decisions I personally have made was recently retiring from the direct sales world after 10 years. It started as a way to earn a little extra money while working full time, and actually paid for my honeymoon, multiple vacations, a deck and more. However, towards the end I started looking at what I call my brain dump (a place I listed out all my to-dos for personal, our company, clients and then my direct sales area) and what I saw was pretty clear. I was checking off all the items that made me happy and dreading other areas. I always followed through on the parts that I loved yet slacked in what I wasn’t excited about. So  I made a really difficult decision and said to myself: it’s ok to say no. It  was terribly hard to leave a team behind that I adored and counted on me and fellow leaders that became like family yet I wasn’t happy and where my to do list wasn’t getting shorter was there.

The hardest thing to do sometimes is letting something go. It’s just like ripping off a band aid right? Hurts a little at first as you start to peel back the edge followed by a quick painful pull and then it’s done. And we all know how that part feels–it’s relief. Know what else? Once that band aid comes off, so to speak,  it frees up time and space for the focus to be placed elsewhere, a sort of healing begins to take place, if you will.