Scenario: An independent event planner designed an event for a family business that over the years has grown to include 100 managers in 23 states. The family executives wanted to create a sales and customer service conference over 3 days to retrain existing sales staff. All flights and hotel rooms were arranged through the company’s travel agency, and the conference was held at a conference center. There were 500 participants flown into Claremont, California, on a Sunday evening in August, along with their spouses or partners. Monday at 7:30 a.m., breakfast was followed by back-to-back training sessions with gurus in the field of retail sales and customer service. At noon, there was a break for lunch (followed by dinner at least two of the nights). The Human Resources (HR) department handled the actual training sessions. The spouses or partners were engaged at the conference center each morning and afternoon with their choice of golf, tennis, swimming at the pool, or frequenting the on-site spa. The event planner was in charge of any local transportation, setting up the conference facility and training session operations, security and safety, banquet operations, and companion events for spouses and partners.

After lunch on the first day, some of the participants got news via the Internet that Claremont, California, would possibly be evacuated due to wildfires. The event planner was not paying any attention to the news or weather. The event continued, but as attendees went looking for coffee and water in the later part of the afternoon, they heard more from the coffee vendor in the lobby and the bellboys. The fires were such that by 7:00 p.m., the city would be forcing residents to evacuate. Smoke started appearing outside conference room windows. At about the same time (3:00 p.m.), the event planner was informed of the situation by the venue manager, who urged the planner to inform the guests to evacuate.

The event planner immediately went to his phone to find alternative flights for the attendees through the travel agency. But of course, all flights from Claremont, according to the agency, had been cancelled from 4:00 p.m. onward. When he went to inform the various attendees at the various conference sessions that were in progress, he had only informed 10 sessions on one end of the conference center when he got a call from the other end of the conference center where 15 more sessions were in progress. The CEO was asking what was going on and what information the planner had because people were starting to panic and run out of the sessions.

In the meantime, the dinner chef was calling the event planner asking what to do with all of the fried chicken, cold pasta, green salads, and biscuits readied for the dinner planned that night.

  • Summarize the problem using the 5 W’s (see the Reading area).
  • Based on the conference best practices, what did the event planner neglect to do regarding the event?
  • Based on the reading, the learning activities, and doing some research on the Internet, establish criteria for possible resolution.
  • Propose a plan of action to enact the resolution.
  • Summarize the necessary information that the event planner should have had already prepared to address such a situation, applying the conference operations best practices that should have been used.

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