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The night the lights went out ... at my event
by Lydia Silva, Event and Tradeshow Manager, Rio Grande
It was my first time leading this specific event, a symposium in our hometown for about 200
people. I had been involved with the event for several years, but it was my turn to lead and we were in a new hotel. Day two and by then, some small annoyances but nothing major -- until after lunch when the lights started flickering and then, ZAP,
the power went out! Well, the bad news was, it was BAD! A transformer had blown in the hotel tower. The good news was that the conference center got
its power restored. The bad news was that the two electricians who replaced the main transformers were electrocuted and hurt.
At about this time, the ambulance and news crews showed up, and all heck broke loose: no power, no hotel computers, etc., etc. This was also about the time I had to figure out how to break the news to my directors and attendees that we would have to stop the program and evacuate them from 15 floors of sleeping rooms via a dark stairwell. Not to mention finding transportation and alternative sleeping accommodations and continuing the symposium attendees and speakers had traveled across the world to attend!
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I don't know how I got my brain into warp speed to run with a plan, but I did. I had a great team, and we called in our management staff from the plant to help carry luggage down 15 floors and make sure we got everyone out of the hotel safely. The hotel helped us find buses, as most were taken with a huge citywide convention, and they helped us with accommodations at two other sister hotels in the city. We poured our attendees margaritas while they waited in line to check in at their new hotel and then bused them into the original hotel each morning for the remainder of the event.
Now this truly was a disaster, but it really brought the best out in my crew, my company, myself and my attendees. It showed my attendees they were partnering with a company that knew what they were doing and cared about them and the welfare of the all of the staff and vendors we were working with. In the midst of this, I felt like it wasn't real, but looking back ... (OK, it still doesn't feel real) ... I am truly proud of everyone involved! P.S. The electricians were OK. One was badly burned, but he survived, thank goodness! The joke these days is, when
am I planning this year's evacuation?