If I've learned anything in the 21st century, it’s to anticipate. The events of 9/11 knocked us all off our feet, but there were some good lessons to be learned.
I read fervently the story of one group meeting in the Marriott at ground zero and how they managed to get out of the building that horrific day. Our department gathered to watch the continuous reports. That’s when we began to ask ourselves, “Could this happen to us?” We then decided on where to meet outside of the hotel if we had to evacuate.
Anticipation is the act of thinking things through to the possible end (or ends, depending on the action). Asking yourself “what if” questions can be daunting, but it’s worth the effort. Once you have thrown the covers off the scary outcomes, you can sanely shed light on how to avoid those situations and deal with them if they happen.
Most meeting planners know to get a list of pharmacies, urgent care facilities and hospitals, in case an attendee becomes ill. Also, being aware of the safety procedures of the venue should be a given.
A good leader not only anticipates the possibilities, develops a plan for the possibilities, and then rehearses those plans with staff members. Everyone on staff needs to be able to act without hesitation, because your attendees are going to look to you and them for what to do.
Anticipation does not have to be for emergency situations only. Anticipate the user experience with your websites and registration systems. Then, do the same for their physical experience at the event.
It goes by many names, so what I like to call the Daily Operating Guide provides me a minute-by-minute breakdown of what is going to happen during an event. This ever-changing document takes a while to put together, but it also helps me determine (anticipate) where there could be gaps (like I need to be in two places at the same time).
Of course, there will be times where you simply cannot foresee something happening. If you have been practicing anticipation, you will be able to stay calm and react appropriately. Your followers will be counting on you.