By Rene Tamayo
Weather, whether good or bad, plays a major role in determining how successful your event will be. When weather is perfect, it almost seems like nothing can go wrong —everything falls into place and we can focus on giving participants a wonderful time doing good for their cause. However, when weather is not cooperating — if it’s too hot, cold, windy, raining — we tend to focus on all the negatives. We worry about all the things that may go wrong due to the inclement weather. Will participants show up? Will they leave in a hurry right after the main event? What technical production issues will the weather effect?
From the participant’s perspective, although they logically know that we cannot control the weather, it is bound to shape their experience. If the weather was gorgeous, they’ll remember a beautiful, inspiring event where everything went well. If the weather was unpleasant, they’ll remember how uncomfortable they were. So what can we, as event professionals, do about this? We cannot control the weather, but we can control how we deal with it, and how our participants experience it.
Two weeks ago, we executed our Susan G. Komen Philadelphia 3-Day, a 60-mile walk over three days with hundreds of participants. Fortunately, the first two days of the event were amazing with cool temperatures and sun for most of the time the walkers were on the route. Participant spirits couldn’t have been higher and everyone seemed happy.
However, on the final day of the event, the weather changed drastically, and we had constant rain for the entire day. Towards the end of the event, we celebrate our last walker as they arrive at the Finish Line Festival in the late afternoon. Walkers who finish earlier are asked to wait, so that we can hold our Closing Ceremony after all walkers have arrived and honor and celebrate everyone together. So the rain added an extra challenge to our finale. How do you keep your participants engaged with your event even when the weather is working against you? How can your event staff get past the bad weather, remain focused and motivated and ensure that the event continues to excel?
Here are two things our event team focused on in order to make the long, wet day not only manageable, but more importantly, motivating:
We focused on taking care of our participants, supporting them to the very end.
- We made sure rain ponchos and mylar were available to all participants and staff.
- We converted our large shade tent at the closing event site into a rain shelter.
- We reached out to our event site contact who opened up the gym adjacent to the site so participants could get out of the cold and rain for a period of time until the last walker arrived at the site.
- We ensured that all participant gear bags were covered with plastic sheeting so that we would keep them as dry as possible.
We motivated participants to keep their spirits up and continue with the event regardless of the dreary weather.
- We adhered to our event programs as originally planned, adapting them to work with the weather as necessary.
- We brought event and ceremony swag (pom poms, noise makers, flags & promise ribbons) to the participants rather than expecting them to walk around the rainy site to collect them.
- We made sure we had great music, food and hydration available to provide participants with as many comforts and distractions as possible.
- We led by example – maintaining our high spirits, cheering in the walkers at the finish line, as well as dancing and singing throughout the day, motivating participants to join in the fun.
When it was all over, the thing that left our team most gratified was being able to have so much fun in what could have been a bad situation. At one point during the morning before things really got started at the Finish Line Festival, I made a clear decision that I was going to have to surrender to the rain and make the best of it. So what if it’s raining? So what if we get soaked? It wasn’t going to last forever (although it did for the entire day!) and it was still a day to celebrate the cause and our participants.
Leading our team to get beyond the woes of the weather can be challenging. However, try to keep the team’s focus on taking care of the participants and more importantly, keeping their spirits high throughout the day. On the 3-Day, we always say, ”Nothing is as hard as breast cancer” — not even the weather.
Rene Tamayo brings to the Event 360 team more than 15 years of experience in the event industry. As the Event Operations Senior Manager, he oversees all aspects of event production including staffing, management and execution.