This was a great session! The moderator, the panelists, and the audience took turns telling their war stories and the lessons they learned the hard way. So many great stories, I can't even begin to go there. Here are just a few:
One person was catering a meeting where President Bush was set to speak. They had everything else set with the secret service, but didn't realize they'd also have to check the food, since they weren't there to check it while it was being prepared. So this poor person had to open up containers for meals for 6,500 people in an assembly line as bomb-sniffing dogs checked it all out, then get it all back and server-ready. While the secret service was ready to just let people not have lunch since the time was so short, this intrepid person called on relationships with all concerned, rallied the troops, and somehow made it all work.
Panelist Johnnie White with the Cardiovascular Research Foundations told a sad tale about attendees entering the facility all upset about the awful hot and uncomfortable ride they had over to the meeting. Turns out the transportation company had run out of shuttles and used schoolbuses to get people there instead. They ended up being able to get more shuttles from another city, so the problem was limited to just that morning. "The aha is to communicate with vendors ahead of time," he said. "If we had known, we could have given attendees a heads-up" that it was just a temporary problem, and maybe even played it up somehow, incorporated the experience into that of the meeting (in a good way).
Another planner had attendees get stuck near the roof in an outdoor elevator in a hot-climate city in the summer. For an hour, with temps outside reaching well over 100 degrees. She learned that she could keep her head and calmly direct rescue efforts when the leader of her organization was shouting helpful things like, "break the glass!" There's one I'd really not have to learn for myself! But you never know how you'll deal until you have to face something like that yourself.
OK, I'm signing off to go see the Neville Brothers and (for something completely different) chow down some more at tonight's festivities. This should be fun.