In the second of our event management masterclass series I want to look at event transportation. When thinking of transportation it’s easy to only think of getting your delegates to your venue, but vendors and exhibitors also need to get from A to B and they often come with a lot of equipment and materials to boot. Although this technically falls under the remit of logistics, should still form part of your overall transport planning.
We’ll start then with the golden rule of event planning which is having a backup plan in case things goes wrong (which they can and often do).
However well you plan there’s always the possibility that something outside of your control can go wrong, so it’s essential to have a plan B (and possibly a plan C). Roads can get blocked because of accidents or congested traffic, public transport could be delayed or not operating at all because of industrial action, your transport company could let you down; these are just a few of the many problems that could arise. Having an extra vehicle on hand can help mitigate against this to a certain degree. However you plan it though, just make sure you have an alternative means of getting your delegates and vendors to the event come rain or shine.
Adaptability and Crisis Management
Having a solid contingency plan is essential but implementing it means having the ability to adapt quickly and at a moment’s notice. This could be anything from a cancelled flight resulting in half your attendees to a sudden safety issue with the venue. Good crisis management is an absolute must when it comes to contingency planning, especially at large events.
David Gifford of Sterling PR has spoken of having to relocate the Democratic National Convention taking place in North Carolina from a 70,000 capacity open air stadium to a 15,000 indoors venue because of unexpected severe weather. As he concludes from the experience, “the lesson here is not about having a plan B or a plan C or a rain plan. It is about being willing to shift gears VERY quickly if necessary and to learn to be able to move your plans in a different direction when your circumstances call for it.”
Dealing with Transportation Companies
Finding a good transportation company isn’t always easy. Whilst, reliability should always come first and foremost, reputable transport companies should always go above and beyond the basic requirement of getting your attendees from A to B and treat you more like a partner than a customer. They should also be willing and able to offer expert advice in terms of transport planning and logistics. If they’re asking you for directions and advice then you might want to look elsewhere.
Transport isn’t just about getting your guests to your venue either; it’s about how they get there. First impressions count and your delegates will be judging your event the moment they step into one of your hired vehicles. Bad driving or surly staff can result in lasting damage to your brand so do your research and look for reviews and testimonials before you commit to a provider.
If you’re putting on a local event, then it’s quite likely that many of your attendees will end up driving their own cars to your event. It’s important therefore to find out how much parking the venue has available. If space is at a premium then one solution would be to issue car parking passes to your attendees. Another could be to investigate other nearby car parking options. If your venue has very limited parking and you think a lot of your delegates will end up driving then you could even secure a car park nearby and put on a shuttle bus to ferry delegates to and from the venue.
Car Pools and Green Transport
If parking is limited then it makes sense to encourage or even incentivise car pools. You could communicate this through your event marketing literature by offering discounted parking to those arriving with two or more passengers. If parking at your venue is free but limited then you could offer some kind of incentive reclaimable in the event, such as a free drink or product giveaway.
Of course limited parking should not be the only motivation for encouraging car pools promoting your event’s green credentials is always a win-win situation. You can do this by encouraging people to take public transport and making sure you send out timetables for all major intercity and national transport links both in and out, as well as links to more information. Finally, don’t be afraid to encourage cycling, if some of your attendees are local, by pointing out the city’s cycle paths and offering secure cycle storage on site.
Deliveries and Pickups
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s not just delegate transportation that you need to think about when planning an event. There will inevitably be deliveries for vendors or exhibitors and with larger events this can mean a significant amount of heavy equipment and rigging coming in and out on articulated lorries and trucks. These deliveries are often tightly scheduled and there can be fines for early or late deliveries.
Deliveries trying to get into your venue can even end up choking access points for delegates trying to get in and park, so it’s important you have a proper logistical plan in place so haulage can get in and out of the event without disrupting the event itself.
Establishing proper communication channels with delegates and vendors is an absolute must when it pulling off a successful event. Make sure everyone attending the event has a point of contact so that they can get hold of someone should they have to pull out or are severely delayed. Keep people informed across as many online and offline communication channels as you can and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to check arrival times with vendors or suppliers.
It’s also important to keep communication with your transportation company open at all times on the day so you can be aware of any problems as soon as they occur and put your contingency plan into action in good time. Event staff also need to be kept in the loop here so everyone has a clear idea of what’s going on if transport arrangements do change at the last minute. This is often the case when picking up delegates from the airport, as flights are often delayed.
Evaluate your Route as well as the Venue
Ultimately the responsibility for getting people to your event on time and without incident rests with you. As we’ve discussed, some situations are just unavoidable but there are some things that can easily be planned for well in advance. Taking the time to evaluate all the major routes to your venue is something you need to factor into your schedule. Keep your ear to the ground for anything pre-planned that could potentially cause delays or traffic congestion. This could be roadworks, another big event taking place the same day or just heavy rush hour traffic that some cities experience. Planned railworks and adverse weather conditions can also severely hamper public transport or cause flights to be delayed or even cancelled. Knowing the situation on the day will give you time to plan around it. In some extreme cases it might even mean hosting your event on a different day.
Corporate events, conferences and forums involve significant numbers of people descending on a single location over a short period of time. Often some of those people will have travelled a long way to get there. Making sure their journey is as smooth and as trouble free as possible is vital to creating a good first impression and pulling off a successful event, so do your research and make sure you have a good transportation plan in place.
If you’d like to find out more about how Outsourced Events can help you pull off your company’s next legendary corporate event, then call us for a chat on 0208 995 9495.