Old Man Winter doesn't care that you’ve chosen the perfect keynote speaker and confirmed every conference detail a year in advance. Think of the two recent winter storms that paralyzed much of the country, one ruining many a Thanksgiving dinner and the second dropping snow and ice from Texas to Tennessee—a region of the country you’d expect to be well above freezing.
With your speakers potentially traveling from any airport in the country—and as likely to be coming from another program as from their home base—planning travel itineraries around moody Mother Nature can be near impossible.
Here are five ideas to improve the odds that your speaker will be on stage when you expect him or her to be:
1. Monitor flights in real-time.
There are several useful resources for tracking weather systems and checking flight status. Flightstats.com is a go-to tool for checking flights in real-time, airport delays and closures, and weather. You can set up travel alerts for yourself and your staff.
2. Rent a car, borrow a jet.
If airports delays and closures threaten the speaker’s arrival, consider another form of transportation. “Sometimes you can actually get to a destination faster by driving,” says Diane Goodman of the Goodman Speakers Bureau. Obviously it isn’t always feasible, as sometimes it isn’t safe to drive. But you aren’t tied to a flight schedule already taxed with delays, and sometimes you can drive around the weather. The same is true of a corporate or private jet. “Many large corporations have private jets that can be used to safely get a speaker around a storm system and to the event on time,” Goodman says.
3. Bring the speaker in a day early.
This is the safe approach. “It might cost you an extra room night, but that’s well worth the investment to ensure the speaker is there and not stuck in an airport,” says Goodman. This strategy puts everyone at ease—stakeholders, the meeting planner, and the speaker.
4. Keep your agenda flexible.
Practice some basic contingency planning for an earlier arrival, or a later arrival. Can the keynote be delivered at breakfast rather than at dinner the evening before? It’s important to note that changing a flight ahead of time is much easier than trying to get a speaker out of a shutdown airport.
5. Keep the lines of communication open.
Speakers bureaus act as the liaison between the speaker and the meeting planner/client. Good communication can prevent needless worry and scrambling on both ends, and allow everyone to work together toward a successful outcome. “In these emergency situations, everyone involved needs to realize that we’re all in it together,” Goodman says. “It works out best when everyone comes together to find a solution to the problem.”
Karen E. Lynn is marketing and communications manager at Goodman Speakers Bureau.