Delays and canceled flights are wreaking havoc on travel this summer. What should event planners do to ensure keynote speakers, VIPs, and others make it to their events on time.
Pent-up demand, labor shortages, and canceled flights have created a summer of travel chaos. Delays, disruptions, and diversions are the new norm. Covid is still a reality, airport staffing is below capacity, and some airlines have threatened to or have gone on strike.
For leisure travelers, this is bad news. For event planners and speakers, this could mean heavy losses. What are the implications if a speaker misses a gig due to travel delays, and what can be done to mitigate losses?
One option is to impose financial penalties or contractual clauses to tackle the issue. But would that help?
Savvy speakers may charge for an extra day of travel and arrive an extra day early. But professional speakers know that adding to their invoices will not be appreciated by their clients. Competition is fierce for speaking gigs and happy clients mean potential endorsements. Speakers are more likely to allow extra time and absorb the costs to honor their commitment to their client.
The situation is different for corporate speakers as the corporation is unlikely to want its employee hanging around for another day just to be on time. They need their people to maximize their working time, rather than traveling time.
Planners can build fee reductions into their contracts for speakers who do not arrive on time, but this merely draws attention to the issue. In the event of non-arrival, the planner would still have to deal with the hole in their agenda. Clauses and charges from either the speaker or planner do not fully resolve the issue.
What if your speaker needs to take an alternative flight? Working with a client that allows for reasonable alternative transport costs is important. Any planner that knows their business will allow for overall contingency expenses which can be approximately 10% of a total budget.
Insurance will not alleviate this issue as travel delays and disruptions are a known risk. Therefore, policies do not provide any more coverage than at present. Some travel insurers allow for travel delay coverage but the amounts payable are rarely worth the time and effort of claiming.
Making the Process as Smooth as Possible
It is important to consider the impact of travel delays in future planning for both speakers and planners. You can help your speakers, delegates, and other stakeholders by reminding them in advance of the requirements for getting through security or paying extra for priority.
Some speakers may opt to only do domestic speaking engagements that do not necessitate cross-border flying, to minimize the risk. This could help, but it may not be practical. “Will planners take a similar view and source only local speakers? That could be challenging as it is not always easy to establish where speakers are based,” said Rebecca Jones, Past Chair of the Board of the UK Professional Speaking Association.
Provision of pre-recorded video must be part of conversations between planners and speakers. Knowing that travel issues abound, getting speakers to provide video of their session could be a good Plan B. If the speaker is not able to make it, the video can be played and delegates still get to enjoy the content. Also, the speaker may still be able to connect remotely and take part in live Q&A.
In the absence of pre-recorded content or other contingency plans being made, the next best thing could be for the speaker to find a place to live stream.
Entrepreneurial thinking is helpful when faced with disruption from any cause. Don’t forget, the issue may be travel today, but tomorrow it could be a new virus or a natural disaster. There is always a good reason to be risk savvy and have a viable Plan B.