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How as a PA, can you mitigate against strikes?


Ruthie Coverdale, venue and special events manager at Royal Horticultural Halls writes about how PAs and EAs can successfully mitigate against train strikes and other unexpected eventualities.

With the events and hospitality industries still feeling raw after the last two years and with another set of strikes on the way, venues, suppliers and organisers clearly need to be flexible.

Blue Orchid Hotel Group last year reported they had lost £500,000 due to the first set of train strikes. The group stayed open during lockdown for those who were unable to get home, and those who needed to be apart from their families whilst working in providing essential services. The Group provided over 5,000 room nights and over 30,000 meals to those in need throughout the pandemic. Afterwards, Blue Orchid Hotel Group founder Tony Matharu founded the Central London Alliance with the mission of uniting organisations of varying sizes to support a safe and strong economic recovery of Central London.

Historically the British are good at keeping calm and carrying on but recently panic has taken a grip and positive attitudes have fallen away to the detriment of many businesses. We need to get this back! Event organisers shouldn’t need to take flight with their event in potentially adverse circumstances. There are plenty of alternatives when confronted with uncertainties.

Let’s look at the facts and possibilities

From the outset, a contingency strategy should be part of the planning to be able to flip from one scenario to another with ease. Budgeting needs to be flexible, with an emergency pot accessible for potential additional aspects, such as taxis.

Let’s remember, train companies, whilst there are delays, will still run trains, just not a full timetable, so allowing for extra travel time is a must. As we know, train strike action requires a two-week notice period. However, teachers don’t have to give any and parents may have to stay at home to look after little ones at the drop of a hat.

Include both face-to-face and streaming options in your event

So, having the ability to reconfigure an event whether it’s a conference, charity gala, awards ceremony or even an exhibition into a range of different set ups for part face-to-face, part hybrid, is paramount. There’s a good case for having a streaming element included in every event which can be edited into a video for website, sales and social media purposes. Plus, having a branded space to interview VIP’s, speakers, winners or exhibition stand holders to live stream engaging content for those elsewhere.

Choosing venues that are close to multiple transport links is crucial, with a short walking distance to the venue and local hotel availability, maximising attendee potential.

Understanding from the outset, by including questions in the invitation, the attendees who could feasibly get to the live event and those who would have to attend via streaming.

Have a backup plan with a flexible hotel

Working with a flexible hotel group such as Blue Orchid Hotels, who have hotels located just moments from us. They support contingency planning for hosting organisers, VIP’s and members of staff. Helpfully they offer a 24hr cancellation policy for an individual’s accommodation and special terms for larger bookings, which can be agreed in advance, with flexibility and a collaborative approach welcomed.

Don’t forget to involve the caterer

Securing a deal with a caterer as to minimum and maximum numbers for the face-to-face event which can be changed up to two weeks prior, and enquiring as to whether they offer a home delivery service. If not, caterer Box Clever Events can. With a two-week lead time, they deliver bespoke boxes of goodies for breakfast or post event networking drinks including artisan gins and homemade parmesan biscuits for up to 1,000, ensuring everyone feels part of the event. Options start at just £15.

Networking, in a hybrid format, can be arranged by pre-booking slots with a chosen guest at a certain time. Both can have drinks together and enjoy the conversation even if they’re not in the same room.

It’s important for organisers to have alternatives in place and for venues to offer ideas as opposed to immediately resorting to an addendum in the contract allowing people to cancel should the adverse occur. Of course, in some circumstances it simply may not be possible. But as long as we’re striving for events to take place, it will certainly ease the disappointment and burden of having to re-organise and reschedule if we can just get our heads around plan B, C and D from the outset.


Check out our review of Tower Suites at Blue Orchid Hotel