Crisis Management

It seems that with all events, there will always be a probable chance that something will try to go wrong. With the ASB Presidential Debates, it was by no means an exception. I've learned that the absolute keys to handling these situations are timeliness, patience and a proactive mind-set.

The Overflow Contingency
Literally 24 hours prior to the debate, a flood of student interest spiked on the Facebook event page with 230 confirmed guests to attend the debate and an additional 240 that would also possibly attend the event. Because this was the first time this type of project had been attempted, there were no prior means to measure actual audience attendance. From that point, I took into consideration the typical guest response to most event pages on Facebook. The percentage of those labeled attending guests was cut to 70% probability, and the guests that may attend was cut down to 20% probability. These odds still measured a possible breech of the Overby Center auditorium's maximum capacity of 225 people.

Although we had continuously monitored the attendance projection during the weeks leading up to the debate, prior results and additional factors were still projecting seating outcomes below the auditorium capacity. Thankfully, I had previously discussed with our faculty adviser what options could be used in case of such an situation. Once I discovered the flux in probability, I immediately began work on creating a full contingency overflow plan. This took the work of emailing my adviser, working with an old media AV tech friend of mine and the specific role re-assignment of one of my officers. By 12 p.m. the next day a second, smaller auditorium nearby was prepared to handle a live webcam feed from the Overby Center auditorium.

Thankfully at the beginning of the debate we were 10 seats below the limit. If we had gone beyond this point, the previously trained officer would have made the executive decision to close off the entrance to the auditorium and then begin escorting guests to the second location. I have now written this contingency as a mandatory preparation for next year's officer team.

The Misprint
Despite constant availability on my part, contacting student media to secure press releases, facts and quotes was more difficult than it should have been. Because this was a situation not within my control, I continued to promote my availability positively, and effectively. Despite the Facebook event page, the numerous flyers (including the PDF of one I email to our correspondence) and a previously written article about the debate in the student newspaper, the Daily Mississippian coverage on the day of the debate still managed to indicate that the debate would start at 7 p.m., an hour later than the actual time of the debate at 6 p.m.

The moment I read the mistake at 8 a.m. that day, I already knew what measures it would take to fix the problem. By 8:15, I had successfully gotten the newspaper to change the online edition of the paper as well as implement all day announcements of the correct times on the student radio station. By 9 a.m., I had written a message clarifying the mistake which was sent out to all of the Facebook event guests. With the help of our ASB contacts, that same message was emailed to the entire student and faculty population by 12 p.m.

The Tech Glitch
Prior to the beginning of the debate, I had noticed that one of the songs in the slide presentation was not playing on its cue. This set of slides had been emailed as part of a script to the AV team from UM Media Relations who would be helping us during the event. Quickly running up to the AV box to see the problem, I realized that the file folder that Media Relations created was missing this particular song. In the past I had dealt with similar situations of transferring power point files with music accompaniment. Foreseeing a possible situation of misplacement, I had a backup copy of the entire folder on my flash drive. If I had not adverted the problem there would had been 5:56 minutes of dead space.