Here at Worldwide Speakers Group, we pride ourselves in the service we provide to both our speakers and our clients. Part of this includes our end-to-end event planning, which incorporates event strategy, travel logistics, itineraries, and so much more. We all know that in life, things don't always go according to plan. The same holds true for planning speaker events.
Tara Goldberg, a Senior Event Coordinator here at WWSG, answers some questions related to risk management. Use these tips and suggestions on how to handle issues that arise when planning your next speaker event.
What goes in to your event strategy and logistics?
From the beginning, we are making plans for travel and security needs. We are also thinking about contingency plans for any unexpected obstacles that may arise. In addition, we plan ahead for any on-site management issues, such as managing the press and media. Speakers can be swarmed by journalists. It's important to think about who will be in the audience and set aside time for the media.
How do you handle travel issues?
Travel is the biggest thing we worry about. Making sure that the speakers arrive in plenty of time is top priority. We always make sure that the speaker is not on the very last flight into the city in which the event is being held. We try to minimize the stops and to have at least one other flight that is leaving that day as a backup flight option. We encourage our speakers to get to their engagements earlier than expected.
When travel issues do arise, we communicate with the client every step of the way. Weather is a huge risk that we must deal with and one that we can't control. If flights get canceled, we make sure we have a backup plan. We have a great partner relationship with a travel agency and we connect with the airlines directly. We are always prepared to explore different possibilities to get the speaker to their event. When needed, we've had to use a charter plane to get them there.
How do you handle security issues?
How we handle security issues really depends on the speaker. Some speakers prefer to use the main entrance, while others prefer a back door and to use an alias. We give the speakers options. We're also open with the clients about what needs to happen. If there is an event where we anticipate there will be protests, such as at a university, we're very mindful of that and are in close touch with the client contact. Depending on the situation, we may recommend having additional police present or security patrolling. In addition, we will sometimes have security calls ahead of time with the speaker's security team and the client. We will plan a walk-through prior to the event with the security guards. When we feel it necessary, we recommend giving the police a head’s up about the speaker event. After all, the speaker's security guard is only for them, not for the audience members. We tailor our security plans to the individual needs of the speaker and client.
How do you set expectations with the speaker and the client?
It's very important to be open with the speaker and client. We almost always have a pre-event call with the customers that are hosting the speaker as well the speaker themselves. This is a good way for the speaker to get a good feel of the audience and the event as a whole. It's also a good chance for both parties to ask questions and feel more comfortable ahead of the event. The client has the chance to talk with the speaker ahead of time and give them the breakdown so they know what to expect.
The speakers also receive written material from us which includes information from the client and the most important details in the event itinerary. It has all the client information on it along with the speaker's travel information. The speaker and client receive a final version of that itinerary to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
What goes in to developing contingency plans?
Developing a contingency plan takes careful thought and planning. There will always be things that arise that we can't control, like the weather. We work with our travel agency to get an idea of the best flight that would get our speaker to their event seamlessly. Part of that planning is making sure that all legs of the flights to their final destination has multiple flight options.
Our contingency plans also consist of being mindful of things once the speaker arrives at the town of the event, such as traffic, local weather, and other events happening. We work with reliable car service companies to get our speakers to and from their event in a safe, efficient manner. On rare occasions, the car service might not be the best way. One time, in a New York snowstorm, we gave a speaker exact directions on the subway to get them to their speaking engagement on time. It helps that the speakers are very willing to get to their events in a timely manner, however that may be.
Sometimes we'll have a greater interest in an audience seeing the speaker than the capacity will allow at an event space. At that point, we talk with the client and make sure that there is an overflow room when they can see the speaker via simulcast.
We also have contingency plans when it comes to book signings. We have developed guidelines on how they can be managed. For example, we make sure there are a handful of sharpies that work and advise the client when it comes to ordering enough books for attendees. A suggestion for if you run out of books is to have a stack of stickers that can be used as bookplates and then the speaker can sign those.
We also rely heavily upon the planners at the event location. We often have more than one contact for big events. A secondary onsite contact or someone dedicated to our speaker to lead them around is important. This is unusual for our speakers, but if we know that a certain speaker tends to run late, we might adjust their schedule and make them think the event starts a little bit earlier than it really does. It's important to have contingency plans to help mitigate any kind of risk.
When planning international events vs domestic, do you do anything different?
With international speaking engagements, you must communicate even more. With time differences, you may not get an answer until the next day. We have to be very mindful in how we express things to our clients. With international events, we still make sure that everything flows seamlessly, but to an even higher degree. The event will be happening in a different country, perhaps outside of our normal business hours. We're available 24/7, but we must be even more clear in our communication, especially if there is a language barrier.
How do you overcome obstacles to make sure the client and speaker are satisfied?
We need to be very mindful of what the client's challenges are and any that may come the speaker’s way. It's important for all parties involved to be flexible and understanding when these issues arise. We are comfortable asking a speaker to make an adjustment to their schedule, such as leaving earlier for their speaking engagement if there is bad weather predicted. We make it clear that we do everything we can to ensure everything flows seamlessly.
We're always looking to learn. If there is something that went wrong, we learn from it and apply it to future events. We always follow these above mentioned best practices. We customize as much as possible for every speaker. We get to know our speakers and make recommendations based on our relationships with them. We realize that event planning is not one size fits all and are very aware of our customers’ and speakers’ needs. Our quick responsiveness and commitment to managing successful events for our clients and speakers puts us a step above other firms.
Contact Worldwide Speakers Group here to book a speaker for your upcoming event!