Exercise enlightens even those that thought they were prepared.
There was no shortage of sessions to choose from at the 2006 World Education Conference sponsored by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), but attendees who participated in Attainium’s Disaster Experience session think they selected one of the best. Presented in the format of an unfolding disaster, the Disaster Experience grabbed and held participants' attention for several hours.
“At first I wondered why I was doing this at eight o’clock in the morning,” said Janet Graff of The Center for Research and Education in Sunrise, Florida, whose job is about 70 percent meeting planning. “But by the time we got done, I was so glad I participated. The session helped me personally and professionally.”
Laura Kuechenberg, regional director of sales with ConferenceDirect, a hospitality resource company, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, said that “The Disaster Experience made it clear that no matter how much you think you have all the information you need, you don’t. I thought I was pretty well educated in disaster response, but there were lots of issues I hadn’t thought of. People will be better prepared for having gone through this training.”
“Bob Mellinger (Attainium CEO) was awesome,” Graff said. “He really pulls you into it and he brings some levity to the situation as well, which actually caused you to think about what was happening.
“One of the best things about the session was the interaction with other people in the industry,” Graff said. “Everyone took it seriously. It was interesting to see how everyone handled things, even when they didn’t agree. It really showed what a good team can do working together. “
Kuechenberg agreed. “The overall program was phenomenal, and it was great to work with a team. People really stuck together and got involved in everything that was happening. The scenarios used in the exercise were very realistic even though presented in a condensed timeframe.
“I was surprised, however, that many of the people in the group had not developed disaster plans for the city they were having a meeting in,” Kuechenberg said. “The session, as it unfolded, made it perfectly clear that you have to be prepared to deal with everything… if you’re responsible for other people, you have to think about all the possibilities.”
“More people need to attend this session,” Graff said. “It helps you realize the scope of what can go wrong and helps prepare you to plan and to deal with the fact that anything can happen.”
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