This is the story of IBM’s senior events planners this May

You’re in charge of events at a world class bluechip technology focused company and you’re about to congratulate and celebrate your best employees, then suddenly everything changes.


Organisers faced some unwelcome choices at IBM’s exclusive “Best of” event this May when unforecast thunderstorms and high winds disrupted long-laid plans for the platinum grade event. Downpours and high winds made the outdoor venues for some of the events most anticipated features impractical.

Having flown in a thousand of its highest performing employees and their guests to Nassau for the Best of IBM, the events team faced an unprecedented logistics challenge: Deploying last-minute contingency plans was going to be hard, but alerting all the attendees of so many changes at such short notice was going to be even harder.

Events technology specialists Celadin were on point ready to handle things

Celadin’s events system supports IBM at every guest touchpoint. Registration systems onsite impress with frictionless processes and allow attendees and their guests to accelerate through the onboarding process. Exclusive apps provide attendees with timely updates and comprehensive personalised schedules. But when you’re hosting an event in unprecedented weather conditions, it’s the human touch that makes all the difference.

“We’ve been supporting IBM at its most prestigious events for over 15 years,” says Celadin’s Simon Walker. “Our remit has always been to ensure that IBM’s attendees have the best possible event experience with technology at every customer touchpoint. But when dramatic weather conditions spark multiple last-minute event changes, the full power of Celadin’s event support system really comes through.”

“Many of the experiences planned by the events team were scheduled to take place outdoors, but with such unreliable weather forecast this became impossible. Clear blue skies turned to thunderstorms in just minutes and downpours triggered without warning,” explains Simon.  

“As a result, the events team needed to implement last-minute location changes. Backup inside venues were configured and entire attendee experiences were re-planned. That in itself was more than enough for most events teams to tackle, but with so many last-minute changes required, communications became pivotal to success.”

Addressing the communications challenge required some robust technology coupled with agile thinking

Every person at the Best of IBM is offered an exclusive mobile app, and that app has now become the primary source of news for changes in timings and locations.

The app is adaptable and is built to accommodate changes to any plans, but with so many changes announced at such short notice, its importance was magnified tenfold during the showcase this May.

“One of the problems we needed to overcome was due to the personal preferences built into the app itself,” explains Simon. “It’s configured to offer real-time alerts to delegates who want to keep pace with every aspect of the show, but some delegates opt to turn these real-time options off. Additionally, real-time alerts depend on the user being in range of either a mobile signal or the venue’s Wi-Fi.”

“That’s OK 99% of the time, when changes may be causing only minimal inconvenience, but when you’re informing delegates of significant, last-minute location changes, making sure that app is able to alert all users all the time becomes critical.”  

“Our solution was to re-calibrate the system and make sure every critical venue change was preloaded into the app’s scheduled updates sequence.”

Scheduled updates work differently to real-time alerts on the Celadin app. The platform is designed to sync scheduled updates with the installed app whenever the phone is in range of a signal, then display that update at a predetermined time.  If the user has opted to turn off dynamic real-time alerts, it does not matter. The scheduled update still appears.

For the attendees and their guests at the Best of IBM recognition of the attendees’ performance, bad weather didn’t dampen the spirits or diminish the quality of the event.

But behind the scenes it was fast thinking coupled with some agile technology that kept the outlook bright.