MPI Michigan

Focus was on the Big Picture and the Need for a Paper Trail

The 250+-member Michigan chapter of Meeting Planners International (MPI), established in 1979, empowers its members to increase their strategic value with education, professional development and business growth opportunities. Attainium’s Disaster Experience interactive tabletop exercise, offered by the chapter to its members, provided a practical, teamwork approach to disaster response and business continuity planning, according to participants.

“You can never be prepared enough for any emergency situation,” said Jodie Cady, events manager for the Michigan Association of Realtors, “and I felt this session was a good opportunity to see what new ideas were out there that I could use and bring back to the association. I came back with lots of information to share.”

“The session was both interesting and challenging,” said Marie Etchells, group sales manager for the Ritz Carlton in Dearborn, Michigan. “The exercise really pushed you to focus on the big picture and not to jump the gun in emergency situations… that was a particularly valuable takeaway. It’s so easy to get bogged down in details when things are happening so fast and you don’t have complete information.”

“The reality is that you just can’t know what’s going to happen next,” Cady said, “and the exercise really showed us that getting caught up in all the little things could be counter-productive. You have to look at how each thing might affect the whole event before you act.”

“An extremely important educational factor was how critical it was to collect as much information as possible and not let the cart get before the horse,” said Kimberly Wilkes, sales manager at the Yarrow Golf and Conference Center in Augusta, Michigan. “It was interesting to see the different assumptions people made and how things often were not what they seemed… you have to take things one step at a time.

“Many of us tend to take on things and proceed without thinking about what would happen if we disappeared and all the plans were in our head,” Wilkes said. “The way the exercise unfolded made it clear that you should have back up and create a paper trail so plans could proceed without you if necessary.”

“It also became clear that having a centralized information source could be critical,” Cady said. “Back up your role and put your plan online or in a manual where it can be accessed easily, not just in your head. You also have to let people know there’s a plan and where it is.”

All three women liked the teamwork approach used in the simulation. “It was challenging to work with people I didn’t know,” Etchells said. Wilkes agreed, saying that sitting with strangers meant “you didn’t have knowledge of them to fall back on and bias the outcome.”

“It was a great program. I liked that it was interactive and fast-paced,” Cady said. “It forced you to think and make decisions you could be comfortable with… sometimes in an emergency you just have to work with the information you have and not read into it.”

“This program would be a great experience for any person in the conference service industry,” Etchells said. “I’d definitely do it again!”

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