- Faced with bi-country event locations, the complexities of a near impossible logistical challenge, the restrictions of commercial travel, and the exceptionally short transfer time between each event.
- There was also the added pressure that if Brussels did not run on time, my client would be late for the start of the London event, which he was the keynote/only speaker addressing an audience of 150.
No client arrival in London, no FT event – potential disaster.
- It necessitated creative and intricate logistical planning with contingency plans in place for the unexpected.
- My main responsibility on the day was to be the person who was constantly forward planning, monitoring running orders from my virtual office, checking for potential travel delays, and, most importantly, keeping all external parties and my client updated. Monitoring every step of the way.
- Having anticipated that getting messages to my client would be difficult at times on the day (in Brussels, he was either going to be on a podium addressing an audience or networking with global business leaders and ministers). I knew he wouldn’t be able to take frequent calls or keep checking his phone for text messages. I needed to establish strong relationships with key coordinators on the ground beforehand.
- Time was always going to be of the essence, and as soon as he stepped off the podium in Brussels, he needed to get out of there as quickly as possible to avoid missing his transfer to London. This isn’t as simple as it sounds, especially when everyone wants to network with your client and time constraints are forgotten.
- I made certain that I had access to the live stream of the speaker session in advance, so that I could act as soon as he left the stage.
- Next, I contacted the event coordinator, with whom I had already developed a close working relationship in the run-up to the event, and who was then very happy to escort my client out of the Berlaymont quickly and without any unnecessary diversions or interruptions. I double-checked that the awaiting driver was waiting to take my client to his Eurostar train.
- With my client safely aboard the train and no current departure delays, it was time to begin liaising with the FT team.
- With the possibility of any unexpected train delays on the route, I continued to monitor the progress of the train and ETA in London.
- The expected arrival time was always going to be tight, so taking the Tube from St Pancras to the event venue with minutes to spare was the only viable option.
- I had already planned the quickest Tube route, so I kept an eye out for any line delays and always had a back-up plan in case of a problem.
- I gave my client a detailed plan of action for every contingency so that he could get off the Eurostar and simply follow my lead without having to think.
My client was able to concentrate on his critical high-level speech delivery with complete confidence and trust that I had ticked all of my boxes, ensuring the logistics ran as smoothly as possible, and reassured that I had kept all key event contacts constantly updated with status reports throughout the day.
So the day was executed with military precision and I followed my standard procedure of always maintaining a cool head under pressure, forward planning, never taking your eyes off the ball and always planning for the unexpected.
The icing on the cake is when your client walks off stage after the final event and you are the first person he calls to say, “We did it, we accomplished the near impossible!”
- First and foremost, this is not as simple as it sounds when the target meeting list includes global business leaders whose calendars are typically booked months in advance and you only have your client on the ground for a limited time and on set dates with no flexibility. It was the type of trip where having several months of scheduling ahead of time to confirm priority meetings in elite diaries was not on the agenda.
- The trip required meticulous planning, intricate travel, and, as always, maximising meetings within a limited time frame while minimising unnecessary ground transfers.
- As a driver was required at times, I also had to be mindful of spiralling transfer costs, so my goal here was to keep driving time to a minimum.
- It required me to use all of my interpersonal skills to first confirm as many meetings as possible on short notice, followed by a logical and methodical approach to planning a smooth itinerary.
- In order to achieve the desired schedule, I had to demonstrate flexibility on the part of my client while also using my persuasion skills to encourage flexibility on the part of others.
- I made certain that I understood which meetings should be prioritised.
- I organised them by location and then began the task of scheduling, with the goal of my client always travelling in one direction rather than circling a city where traffic can be impossible.
A dot-to-dot exercise with no zig-zagging!
- Because of the time difference with the UK, I willingly chose to work “real-time,” which meant a few late nights, in order to confirm as many meetings as possible.
And my client commented, “that was meticulously planned.”
- When my client’s international return flight was unexpectedly cancelled, I provided flexible working to meet his urgent request, and it was a priority that he wasn’t delayed any longer than absolutely necessary overseas.
- Late night call from my client during a break in his international board meeting.
- It was critical that he return as planned the following morning, which necessitated navigating time zone differences.
- Working until the early hours of the morning to find a viable route due to limited/no direct flight availability to ensure destination arrival by the desired time.
- The goal was to get him back on time without incurring exorbitant flight costs as a result of late booking.
- Because there was no travel agent available for this one, I plotted the best possible connecting flight options, obtained a very reasonable airfare, updated my client’s calendar, and ensured he had his etickets and revised itinerary in his inbox when his board finished.