Plan B: The Rainbow at the End of the Tsunami
The nonstop rain threatened our outdoor community service event. But we weren’t the only ones with a weather problemby Laurel Coote | Published in December 2008 client expectations | plan b | weather | Departments
Albert Hammond sang “It Never Rains in Southern California.” Well, I’m here to tell you — it does!
In 2003, my company planned a meeting for our client’s 400-person leadership team. Upon the client’s request, a community services project was added to the agenda and participants spent an afternoon working together to build a home with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that builds houses for needy families. The day was a great success. Since both the attendees and community organization were so pleased with the outcome, the client opted to do the event again the next year.
We were thrilled to be invited to plan the meeting again — that is, until the skies opened up and the rain began to fall.
The winter of 2004-05 in Southern California had record rainfall. As we sat through day after day of rain that December, we were optimistic that things would clear up for our January event. But as the holidays came and went, the rain kept falling.
Although our client had urged us to hold out, three days prior to the event, we knew we had to implement our backup plan. The forecast didn’t predict rain for the day of our event, but the consistent downpour had turned the build-site into a muddy mess. We simply couldn’t expect attendees to happily construct a home under those conditions.
Changing the entire direction of an event days before its execution it a feat unto itself. I felt confident, however. I knew my team was experienced and flexible, and that our destination management company/team building partner, The Event Team, would be able to help us pull it off. All we needed was to present our alternative plan and get the client’s consent. How hard could it be?
As the saying goes — when it rains, it pours. Our client was nowhere to be found. For two weeks over the holidays, the company shut down. While they were snuggled in bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, our team was scrambling.
When we finally connected with our clients, we explained the situation and presented alternative plans. Managing client expectations can be one of the most challenging parts of the job. We had to ensure that the meeting’s team building and philanthropic goals were met, while guaranteeing attendees would walk away with the same sense of pride and accomplishment they had the previous year.
But we weren’t the only ones who were experiencing some weather.
On Dec. 26, a devastating tsunami had hit Indonesia. Shocked and saddened by the disaster, we recognized that our event could impact people a world away. The new plan? A Las Vegas-themed event to provide an indoor social activity for attendees while maintaining a philanthropy focus.
A ballroom was transformed into a Vegas casino. Live entertainers performed on a grand stage, cocktail waitresses walked the floor, and dealers enticed players to play poker, Black Jack and craps. Everyone received the same amount of “funny money” to start, and at the end of the evening, the company matched the gamblers’ winnings, donating more than $12,000 to selected charities.
Though it was one of the most challenging of my career, this event taught me a great deal. Most importantly, I learned to appreciate the power of giving. Failure was not an option for this event. Not only were the client and attendees looking to us to pull it off, we were responsible to the tsunami-devastated communities. I truly believe that is a powerful calling. The holidays mark the season of giving, but I urge you to look beyond and find ways that you and your clients can give back throughout the year.
Today, I continue to encourage clients to give back to their communities through strategic events. Experiencing the camaraderie and impact that companies can have on their communities has truly changed my perspective on the influence we have within our industry to effect real change.