MPI Tennessee

Attendees apply real-life experiences to respond to disaster scenarios

A joint disaster response education day for meeting and travel industry professionals proved to be a real eye-opener for attendees, plus a learning and financial success in Nashville (TN). The program, which featured Attainium’s Disaster Experience interactive training session, was sponsored by the Tennessee chapters of Meeting Professionals International (MPI), National Business Travel Association (NBTA), the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), and the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP).

“The evaluations we received on the Disaster Experience were excellent, and participants raved about it to an extreme amount,” said Sheena de Giorgio, president for the MPI Tennessee Chapter. “It was extremely motivating for many of the attendees.”

“Each association actually made a small profit,” said de Giorgio, who was an attendee of the event. “We got a lot of sponsorships and sold tabletop space to vendors that helped make the program financially successful.”

Beth Calveard, senior sales manager for Holiday Inn Vanderbilt, was “surprised… I thought it would be more like a speech, and I liked what it turned out to be. It was very interactive and realistic, letting you see situations from both the planner’s and the supplier’s perspective.” Calveard, who is involved in MPI and NBTA chapters, said that the turnout – nearly 200 – was excellent. “We were sold out.”

“I went mostly because I thought the session would be a great networking opportunity,” said Terry Watkins, sales manager for the Pearl River Resort in Choctaw, Mississippi, “but I got more than I bargained for because the training was so wonderful, very fun and very much a surprise. I just hadn’t expected it to be as good as it was.

“This program gets you involved, and the timeframe was just about perfect,” said Watkins, who also serves on the Governor’s Conference on Tourism sponsored by the Mississippi Tourism Association. “You get to interact with seasoned planners, sales folks, and event speakers/suppliers, so you have different points of view and different experiences represented in each group. You don’t fall asleep, because it moves right along. It’s one of the best things I’ve been to lately as a learning experience.”

“Afterwards, I thought ‘this is good stuff,’” said Kenneth Misterly also went primarily to take advantage of networking opportunities. Misterly, the general manager of the Millennium Conference Centre in Johnson City, Tennessee, said the “the session was very interactive and was real world,” compared to other disaster sessions he’s attended. “Working in teams was helpful because it allowed you to draw on everyone’s experience, especially since the exercise was time-driven.

“It made you look back and consider what decisions were made with what information, which was very beneficial,” Misterly said. “Since the session, I’ve begun using the action log initiated in the session to track minor problems at the Centre. I find it personally and professionally valuable as a way to review the response to any kind of disruption and possibly learn from past events.

“The exercise gave people practice in using a ‘what if’ perspective in planning for disaster response,” said de Giorgio. “The team structure allowed people to hear their colleagues’ thoughts on how they would respond – or had responded – in certain situations and to apply real-life experience to the scenarios in the session. I’d recommend the training to anyone; it’s an excellent program.”

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