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Weather Delays and Evacuations: A Guide to Protecting Your Event (and Sponsorships) Like a Pro

Event professionals know the gut-wrenching feeling when you watch the weather forecast take a nasty turn in the days leading up to your meticulously planned event. Wild weather can throw everything into disarray, but amidst the chaos, you can’t forget about your lifeline – your sponsors.

Tales from the Weather-Weary Frontlines

Remember these infamous weather-related incidents?

  • Coachella’s Sandstorm Surprise: Winds whipped up an apocalyptic dust cloud, obscuring visibility and potentially damaging sponsor displays and activations.
  • Lollapalooza’s Lightning Retreat: Just as a headliner reached the stage, a massive thunderstorm forced a full evacuation, cutting sponsor exposure short.
  • Fyre Fest…Enough Said: The surprise rainstorm was another nail in the coffin for this disaster, making it near impossible for sponsors to salvage any kind of brand presence or positive association.

Weatherproofing Your Event (and Your Sponsor Relationships) 

We reached out to our favorite safety and risk mitigation expert, Dan Clark, CEO of Tellus Management and Consulting, who has gotten the GC team through a few weather evacs of our own, for some tips on how to be prepared for inclement weather. 

  1. Intel is Everything:  Invest in a hyper-local weather monitoring service for real-time alerts, giving you and your sponsors as much notice as possible. NOAA support, both onsite and offsite, is available to get intel from. This service is free only if you coordinate your event through your local municipal emergency management center.
  1. Draft an Ironclad Plan: Your weather contingency plan should include clear evacuation routes, designated shelter-in-place locations, a clear chain of communication, and how you’ll handle sponsor assets and activations. 
  1. Rig Your Tech for the Worst: Ensure your AV partners use weatherproof gear. Explore protecting valuable sponsor displays or having backup plans for branded experiences. Anchor all tents and equipment in case of wind, before it gets windy.
  1. Your App is Your Megaphone:  Make sure your event app has push notifications enabled and pre-draft messages for weather-related delays and evacuations. Coordinate with your event security to relay consistent messaging to staff, sponsors and attendees.
  1. Train Your Team: Drills aren’t just for fire safety.  Run your staff through weather scenarios, ensuring they understand sponsor protection protocols. Daily on-site safety and security briefs should not be optional. Hoping everyone knows what to do is not a real plan.

Weathering the Sponsorship Storm

  • Proactive Communication is Paramount: Keep sponsors informed with frequent weather updates in the lead-up to the event. Discuss contingency plans with them in advance.
  • Adapt, Adapt, Adapt: Can sponsor activations move indoors? Can digital experiences be substituted? Brainstorm creative ways to give sponsors value even with a disrupted event.
  • If Evacuation Hits: Prioritize the safety of attendees and sponsor assets. Document any damage thoroughly for potential insurance claims.

The Aftermath: Turning Lemons into Lemonade

  • Own It: Be transparent with sponsors about what went wrong. Open and honest communication will build trust for the long term.
  • Offer Solutions: Could you extend digital sponsor visibility post-event? Offer discounts on future partnerships? Get creative to show you’re invested.
  • Learn and Adapt:  Debrief with your team AND your sponsors. What can you improve next time to mitigate the impact of weather better?

Remember, a Little Rain Never Hurt a Strong Partnership

Event professionals and sponsors are in this together. By preparing diligently, communicating openly, and prioritizing sponsor value even during disruptions, you can weather any storm and maintain strong, lasting relationships.

If your event needs help developing its risk and safety plan, you can reach out to Dan and his team at [email protected]

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