Decisions under duress: should you cancel that big wine event?

Paris trade tasting, November 16, 2015

At some point, every marketer faces the difficult decision of whether to cancel an event due to bad weather, a strike or some other problem. So our Paris trade tasting on November 16 – three days after the horrific Paris terrorist attacks – provides a particularly poignant example.

We had been hired by VinHOP, a Parisian wine distributor, to organize a tasting and series of seminars to showcase their portfolio of 65 wine producers and brewers. We booked La Rotonde Stalingrad, a beautiful although unusual venue for a wine event, located in the east side of Paris, and planned to welcome 650 buyers and journalists registered for the event.

Then the terrible events of Friday night occurred. The whole country was on edge.

On Saturday we checked all our traps, conferring with our client, the winegrowers, venue security, the district police department and others. After much deliberating, we decided to continue with the Monday tasting; we wanted to acknowledge the tragedy but to do what the French do best: eat, drink and socialize!

An official message was sent the 650 participants and posted on the client Facebook page. We received a lot of encouraging messages from trade and media who confirmed they would attend. And as it turned out, the sense of community and comradery that helped to shape the decision was echoed throughout Paris.

On Sunday, we arrived at an eerily quiet Gare de Lyon, but while driving up to La Rotonde across the district of the terrorist attacks, we saw more and more people having drinks at cafes and paying tribute to the victims with flowers and candles. Paris was still Paris!

On Monday at 9.30 am we opened the doors and, amazingly, 400 attendees attended the event, which had an unforgettable, positive spirit. We hope no one has to face our own, albeit modest, dilemma in the face of tragedy. We approached the decision making process by quickly getting the widest possible understanding of the situation—from our client, the community, authorities, etc. –and the result paid off.

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Photo credit: ©Crédit Photos VinHOP