By David McMillin, Staff Writer | Feb 11, 2013
Some events felt the impact of one of the biggest winter storms to impact New England in decades. What can you learn from the latest round of weather-related show decisions?
As meteorologists outlined the forecast for a very wintry weekend in the Northeast, members of the meetings community were watching the predictions to determine how to move forward with their events.
Show organizers of the Toy Industry Association’s American International Toy Fair, being held at the Javits Center in New York, continued to gear up for the opening of the show on Sunday, February 10, making it clear that a blizzard would not stand in the way of the 110th anniversary of the event.
“There’s no business like snow business,” a statement on toyassociation.org read. “Snow won’t stop our shows...full steam ahead TOTY and Toy Fair!”
Reaction on Toy Fair’s Facebook page was mixed. While some exhibitors indicated that they had already arrived with comments promoting their booth numbers, other Toy Fair fans posted about flight cancellations. However, air travel began to return to normal in New York before the show officially opened. Despite nearly a foot of snow in the Big Apple, the region’s three primary airports, John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark, reopened on Saturday, February 9.
Further north in Boston, the snow wrote a much different story.
Under direction from the Massachusetts Convention Center Authorities’ Public Safety Department, the annual New England Grows! horticulture trade show cancelled all of the programming on its final day, Friday, February 8. In hindsight, it was the right call and more than likely helped many of the shows 13,000+ participants avoid extending their stays. Boston’s Logan International Airport closed for nearly two full days as more than 20 inches of snow fell on the city.
Social Media Flexes Its Strength
Many trade show organizers and meeting planners rely on Facebook and Twitter for their promotional power. However, the latest round of weather to impact the Northeast and New England highlights that social media can become a very powerful source of communication during times of distress.
Before everyone begin embracing status updates, “real-time” updates existed on a clock governed by PR representatives writing lengthy press releases. Today, those press releases are still important, but social media and email provide a direct line of communication between show organizers and attendees. These tools, coupled with the ability to easily update website home pages, give the meeting industry the ability to ensure that everyone is in-the-know when big decisions are being made.
“We’ve all grown to expect rapid response times,” Carolyn Clark, vice president, marketing and communications, PCMA, says. “When attendees are dealing with uncertainties, social media channels and instant website updates have filled the gap to address those questions without waiting.”
That lack of waiting time can be a positive, but it can also add extra pressure for planners.
“Attendees have never been shy about voicing their concerns and social media gives them a platform to make those concerns very public,” Clark says. “In high-trafficked times during your meeting or trade show, it’s important to make sure that you have one dedicated member of your team monitoring your feeds. At PCMA’s recent annual meeting, we didn’t experience any weather challenges, but we still had a twenty-four-seven schedule to monitor our feeds for potential questions.”
To learn more about how meeting planners and trade show organizers should deal with weather-related challenges, click here to understand how to draft your own disaster plan.