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plenary Behind the Scenes in Boston + The Cliché List


it was around five o’clock [p.m.] when they came into my office and said, ‘We have to talk.’ And that was when they gave me the reality of what might hap- pen: We had eight hours, and in eight hours we would know if we were shutting down.” What had been unreal


was now surreal. Jackson was at the BCEC, consulting with staff there, and also reporting by phone to execu- tives from the six societies, who were sheltering in place at their hotels. She also reached out to her insur- ance company, to talk about Experimental Biology’s cancellation policy. “I knew I had a job to do,” Jackson said,


“and I’m trying to figure out how best to do it. What were my obstacles? What could I do?... Honestly, I knew the show needed to go on. It’s probably the biggest night- mare for any meeting planner to even be approached with having to cancel an event.” For the MCCA, it was a question


of balancing the safety of its employ- ees with a desire to be as flexible as


‘I knew I had a job to do, and I’m trying to figure out how best to do it. I knew the show needed to go on. It’s probably the biggest nightmare for any meeting planner to even be approached with having to cancel an event.’


possible for its client. Rooney talked to the head of the union representing catering workers, asking for some lee- way in terms of notifying them about coming to work on Saturday. “If the shelter-in-place order was still in place [on Saturday morning], we couldn’t ask our employees to leave their homes,” Rooney said, “so we couldn’t have an event.” Not on its originally scheduled dates, anyway. “[Rooney] was very flexible,” Jackson said, “and said if we had to cancel this, ‘We’ll look at this. We’ll work with you. I’m not here to nickel-and-dime you.’… I knew if we had to go down that road, it would be something we’d try to make mutually beneficial to each other.”


But that wasn’t necessary. The


immediate crisis ended about an hour after Jackson received the eight-hour notice from the BCEC, when the shelter-in-place order was lifted. Not long after that, the second suspect was captured by police. “Huge relief,” Jackson said. “I felt like I had worked a


month’s worth of work in a week. It was amazingly stressful and high-tension. I was exhausted, and our meeting hadn’t even begun.” The MCCA kept its additional secu-


rity measures — the metal detectors and bag checks and bomb-sniffing dogs


— in place during and after Experimen- tal Biology, just to be sure. “The theme we’ve adopted is to provide a friendly sense of security,” Rooney said, “so that people feel comfortable being here but don’t feel they’re in a prison environ- ment or in a police-state situation.” As for Jackson, she’s already think-


ing about Experimental Biology 2014, which is scheduled for April 26–30 in San Diego. She has a site visit this month. “I’ve already arranged to meet with the leaders of the city to ask, how would you have handled this?” Jackson said. “Let’s play armchair quarterback: What would you have done? Would you have made these decisions? And, if not, who would you have turned to to do that? Just to begin a conversation.”


. — Christopher Durso


TIPSTER Been There, Done That


Sam Harrison, a speaker, writer, and coach on “creativity-related topics,” has some advice on how to keep your meet- ings program fresh: First think about how you’d keep it stale.


Try a cliché list before diving into the planning of your next event:


1 List all the expected themes, sessions, and activities you want to absolutely avoid.


20 PCMA CONVENE JUNE 2013


2 Look back at what you and your team have done for similar events, and write down all overexposed solutions.


3 Wrap up by listing approaches used by other meeting planners that might label your work as copycat.


For more information: zingzone.com


PCMA.ORG

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