It was rough waters for the team at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference (IBEX) leading up to its show this past September 19–21, in Tampa, Florida.

Hurricane Harvey had just finished pounding the marine industry in southern Texas. As soon as IBEX weathered that storm, it was faced with Hurricane Irma, which began targeting IBEX’s event location just one week ahead of the show opening in Tampa. With two category 4–5 hurricanes hitting the marine industry within just a few weeks, a big question loomed over IBEX — to cancel or not to cancel?

Pre- and post-Hurricane Irma, the IBEX team was faced with all sorts of questions and logistical issues that are not normally addressed in planning operations. Some show attendees needed to cancel in order to travel to Texas for marine work following Harvey’s landfall. Post-Irma, travel and shipments into Florida were canceled, so exhibitors who hadn’t planned ahead were unable to ship their materials to Tampa in time. IBEX’s temporary docks wouldn’t be delivered and in place in time for scheduled exhibits. Plus, many marine professionals were contacting IBEX with questions about the recovery efforts and the likelihood of the show to staging so soon following Irma.

The IBEX team rallied, along with its various partners — including the Tampa Convention Center — to pull off one of the best IBEX shows to date! The IBEX team initiated regular emails to its constituency both leading up to and immediately following Irma, so everyone understood how IBEX was monitoring the situation and knew when key decisions would be made. The Tampa Convention Center even jumped in to rework some of its docks to accommodate scheduled exhibits. And many other last-minute adjustments were made, as well. Following both hurricanes, marine businesses had lingering questions about how to recover/rebuild, so IBEX pulled together a last-minute forum to address proper steps and planning.

In the end, IBEX 2017 launched smoothly and was met with excitement from the industry. Attendance increased 4% from 2016. International attendees (from 50 countries) accounted for more than 7% of attendees. Buzz ran through the exhibit halls for all three days, and business was conducted right up to the very closing hour.

What’s the big takeaway for IBEX, which will be holding its show in Florida for the next few years? Develop a hurricane backup plan!