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Speaker Cancelations – How to Handle Last Minute Changes

Event planners, volunteers, even speaker bureaus plan for months to secure the perfect speaker and coordinate a flawless breakout or general session. However, impeccable plans sometimes take a turn due to poor weather, a delayed flight or even illness.

Even though a turn of events can make coordinators pull their hair out, there are a couple of steps that can be taken in advance to avoid the last-minute frustrating chaos.

Have a Plan B
Elise Schoening, writer for Successful Meetings, suggests having a back up speaker or substitute panel (two or three people) discussion. Panel discussions allow leaders to share their views on industry topics and encourage interactive questions and answer time.
Coordinators should also utilize the valued partnership they have with the host destination’s convention and visitor bureau. The bureau might have local speakers that would appreciate the opportunity to address the conference group.

Swap Sessions
If weather is a factor, the speaker can arrive, but not on time as scheduled, consider switching the presentation time. Just be sure to make sure all attendees are aware. This can be done via social media, email blasts or just verbal announcements.

Foster Socialization – Network
Consider using the time as a networking opportunity for the attendees. Include exhibitors and other speakers too! To enhance the time, Meeting Professionals International, the world’s largest meeting and event industry association, recommends coordinating the period like a speed-dating session. Recognition or prizes can be given to those that make the most contacts in the short period of time. Christy Lamagna, the author of The Strategic Planning Guide for Event Professionals, considers any event or conference a tool for sales and marketing. Remember, American Express Meetings and Events research concludes after content, networking is the second-largest reason for event or conference attendance.

Lastly, do not panic. Impeccable plans will probably encounter some deviations. Take the time in advance to prepare and manage with ease those last-minute changes!

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