Event Marketing

Murphy’s Law: When Events And Weather Collide (And How to Handle It)

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If you have ever hosted an event, you know that no matter how much you over-prepare, something will undoubtedly go awry. Even with careful planning, events are subject to Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

This may sound like a pessimistic point of view, but I’d like to think it’s realistic—and that it’s only negative if you can’t handle the chaos. I like to see it as a challenge. Today, I’d like to share a recent obstacle that affected an executive dinner I planned in NYC for Marketo: snow.

The Impending Storm

After carefully planning the details of what would surely be a successful event, I was all set to hop on a plane to NYC when reports of a “historic” storm to hit the East Coast blasted the media airwaves. Airlines were canceling flights, schools were calling snow days and the city and state governments were shutting down—just two days before my event. Needless to say, I went into crisis management mode, which included this swift series of activities:

  • Evaluate Your Options: After evaluating the situation, we decided to reschedule the event, as most people would be stuck at home in the storm. Because it was so close to the event, we decided that it was wise to cover all the bases and solicit executive support for our decision.
  • Inform Your Stakeholders: We contacted all of our event stakeholders to share the news immediately, including our co-sponsors, staff and presenters. I asked each person to confirm receipt of rescheduling information. I wanted to make sure that no one got on a plane!
  • Contact the Event Venue: We needed to ask about our options for cancellation. Because it was not a total cancellation, but rather a reschedule, we received the gracious response that we could use our deposit towards another date.
  • Email Every Event Registrant: This is important for obvious reasons—you need to let people know the event is cancelled. Then I cancelled my reminder email program in Marketo, and replaced it with a program to email each attendee wishing them luck in the storm and to look for an email soon with the rescheduled date. To make sure that each registrant heard the news, we called them individually.

The Switcheroo

Back in the office, it was time to start planning the event—for the second time. Here’s a list of what I did to get ready again:

  • Asked the Venue for Available Dates: I ran those dates by the stakeholders to check availability and then confirmed a new date about one month out to ensure enough promotional time.
  • Emailed the Original Event Registrants: I sent the original registrants the rescheduled date information and requested that they RSVP to me so that I could re-register them for the new date.
  • Personalized Presentations for Those Who Could Not Attend: I connected original registrants that could not attend with a sales representative to schedule a personalized presentation so that they could still benefit from the content.
  • Started Promoting the New Date: I invited people saying, “Due to the impending blizzard in NYC in January, we rescheduled; thus, you have another chance to join us for the event!”

The Denouement

In the end, we connected with almost twice as many registrants over the two event dates. We welcomed a strong attendance to the event, with many people from the original list of registrants as well as new additions. The new date was a success!

The moral of the story: you can’t beat Murphy’s Law, but you can work with it.

I’d love to hear about your Marketing Murphy’s Law or event marketing stories. Share your stories in the comments section below.