When The Weather Derails Your Speaker Schedule

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Extreme weather events are infrequent, but they do happen. Maybe two or three times a year a weather event will take place somewhere in the world that causes major disruption to travellers.  From bush fires, to erupting volcanoes, to intense storms; if you’re planning an event there’s a chance that it will coincide with something that causes numerous flight cancellations and major transportation delays.

Which may mean many of your speakers cannot get to your event on time. Here’s what to do if you’re faced (or likely to be faced) with a major last minute change to your speaker schedule:

Whatever The Weather

It’s obvious, but keep an eye of the weather forecast 2-3 weeks ahead of your event. Major weather and related events will often be predicted (and tracked) with more notice and visibility than ordinary weather patterns.

Check weather updates using credible sources and watch out for associated updates from airports, airlines and other transport authorities.

N.B. While you may have an idea that adverse weather conditions are likely, flight cancellations will still only take place with little advance warning.

Communicate Immediately

If the worst happens and multiple flights are cancelled (resulting in a large percentage of your speakers being unable to attend) let your attendees know ASAP.   Use your event app to issue real-time alerts and updates to explain what has happened. Advise the time and location for the plan b briefing.

Speakers can be a major drawcard for attendees, so it’s important to secure attendees’ good will and support.  Think about offering complimentary food and drink. Credit vouchers for local attractions or towards the following year’s event will also be appreciated.

What Does Your Plan B Look Like?

For keynote speakers, it’s always a good idea to have a local ‘understudy’ who can step in. If you don’t have one arranged, speak to local talent agents and see if they can provide a worthy/relevant speaker at the last minute,

Technology means you may be able to support session speaker absence with Skype or video conferencing. While not ideal, sessions conducted via video means the content is conveyed and still enables polling or Q&A to take place.

Can The Wi-Fi Cope?

If video conferencing forms part of your contingency plans, ensure you have access to strong and reliable Wi-Fi. It may be necessary to provide complimentary access for all attendees to the hotel’s network.

Make sure speakers are also connected to adequate Wi-Fi. Remind them to check their connection strength before the session starts.

If there is time, ask speakers to modify any visual presentations so they can be clearly seen and understood over video conferencing.

On-Site AV Support

Enlist on-site tech support to help manage the AV and virtual presentations and keep your speaker schedule on track and on time.

Your event app provider may be able to provide a local support tech at short notice to make the virtual/in-person speaker mix seamless.


Major last minute changes to the speaker schedule don’t necessarily spell disaster for your event. Clear and immediate communication combined with a practical contingency plan will ensure the event’s success and the good will of its attendees.

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