How "Plan B" works for Hong Kong events

By Lawrence Chia

Hong Kong's notorious rainy season is poised to begin. Bad weather traditionally adds a layer of complexity and stress to an event manager’s already difficult task, especially for those managing outdoor events.

For events without a solid bad weather backup plan – a 'Plan B' – the effects can range from the embarrassing to the catastrophic.

Hong Kong’s subtropical climate often gives rise to severe weather: thunderstorms are frequent, heavy rain is common, and each year several typhoons pass close enough to the city to trigger warnings of high winds, extreme rainfall, and possible damage to property.

Often, events in Hong Kong include both an indoor and an outdoor component – product launches, VIP parties, and all manner of brand-related events. With these types of events, developing a Plan B is – relatively – straightforward. Professional event managers are outstanding planners and are highly risk-averse.

They conscientiously check weather forecasts and plan for different outcomes based on accepted probability formulas – light rain may trigger a scenario where the outdoor component is moved into tents, while heavier rain may trigger a move indoors or to a larger backup venue.

Approaching typhoons present a greater threat, but forecasting the projected movements of these storms has become quite precise and plans can be made relatively far in advance. Often, events have an alternate 'typhoon' date and events can be moved to the alternate date with relatively little logistical problems.

All contingency planning is performed to ensure that the event experience is as successful as possible for the organisers and participants, while ensuring that everyone is kept safe and dry.

Some events like large concerts and sporting events, however, can only be held outdoors. For these events, contingency plans involve rescheduling certain elements of the event or changing the order of play at short notice.

Such plans were certainly in place at the recent Sochi Olympics. Concerns regarding the weather at Sochi were well-documented – the city was the 'hottest' ever to host the Winter Olympics, and many were anxious that there would not be enough snow to successfully deliver the Olympics.

The organisers resorted to an unprecedented tactic – creating huge warehouses to store 450,000 cubic metres of snow from the previous year, 'just in case'.

The ability to predict and understand what is needed 'just in case' is an extremely important part of event management. A robust and workable Plan B that still delivers an exciting, memorable, and profitable event is not something to be underestimated – it is vital.

Sponsors of events also need to pay close attention to the weather and take a proactive role in preparations. There are innumerable questions that need to be asked:

  • If promotional items are needed, will sun visors or umbrellas be given away?
  • Will banners need to be secured with extra ropes in case of high winds?
  • Will VIP areas need extra covering?
  • Will event staff require rain jackets?

Sponsor input in creating a Plan B is valued at every stage.

So if your company is going to be involved in an outdoor event, ensure that your event management team can not only deliver an incredible event, but a watertight Plan B. As long as you respect this plan and follow your team's advice in the event of adverse weather, your event will succeed – rain or shine.

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