PCMA Southeast

Participants agree that one of the session’s greatest values was the opportunity to work in problem-solving teams

“It was a really good exercise, and it got the creative juices flowing,” said Malinda Pettaway, national sales manager for the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau, who participated in the tabletop exercise. “We never knew what would happen next.”

Gainesville, VA-based Attainium Corp presented its Disaster Experience tabletop exercise at the educational conference presented by the Professional Convention Management Association Southeast Chapter (PCMA SE). “I had heard good things about Attainium’s exercise, and I knew they had done it for the national PCMA organization,” said Michelle W. Jones, CMP, a PCMA SE board member. “The main reason we brought them in, however, was that I could tell from their materials that it was a meaty, practical class. It’s easy to get fluffy, motivational speakers, but we wanted something substantive for this program.

“The exercise was serious, low-key, and intense and dealt with a number of different disruptions and potential disasters,” Jones said. “It provided some good insights into the range of things that people need to think about when they are planning and conducting events. We had nearly 75 people in attendance, and many of them felt it was the best session of the program.”

“The program was exciting,” said Cheryl Ollila, national sales manager for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Because the situations are realistic and could happen at any given event, you’re dealing with the real world. Your adrenalin is up, there’s a lot of anticipation, and you work with a higher-than-normal energy level because of it. It was unique.”

Pettaway liked the fact that there was a bit of lightheartedness in the exercise as well, which made it fun but not far-fetched. “There was a lot of value in working together as a team to solve the various problems that arose,” she said. “I learned a lot just listening to everyone’s experiences as we worked to deal with new issues.”

“The most valuable part for me,” Ollila said, “was working under pressure with people I don’t normally work with and seeing how we all came together as a group. I learned a lot about what might happen in a crisis situation. Everyone knows what a plan is, but you don’t usually know what would happen if a disruption occurred. This was a great way to get training in response. I’ve recommended the program to other facilities in our area.”

Jones also cited the value of working in small groups with a variety of people as a great benefit of the session. “I had wanted to make the content of our entire education program the most serious content I could it the short time we had. Attainium filled that bill… it was a really good session,” she said, “and, if I was to recommend it – and I would – I’d want to tell people that once you get into it, it’s serious.”

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