Event Experiences That Are #THEWORST
SOMETIMES, NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, THINGS JUST DON’T GO YOUR WAY. HUMANS DON’T BEHAVE PROPERLY, MOTHER NATURE DOESN’T COOPERATE, THE PROVERBIAL EXCREMENT HITS THE OSCILLATING COOLING DEVICE. SO, WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS THAT'S BEYOND YOUR CONTROL? HERE IS OUR TOP 10 LIST OF THE MOST CRINGEWORTHY THINGS THAT CAN HAPPEN AT EVENTS AND A FEW TIPS FOR YOUR OVERCOMING YOUR BAD EVENT HANGOVER.
#1 Your headliner is a no-show
Whether it is a keynote speaker who misses their flight or a special musical act that has an artistic fit and refuses to perform, this is a toughie. Rapper Mos Def angered fans and organizers alike when he was a no-show at a Soulfest Australia Music Festival a couple of years ago. Chances are, you’ve used this special moment as a big draw to your event and now your hands are empty. What to do with the hordes of outraged people in the audience? This one is really a challenge to bounce back from--you could try to take your B-list act / speaker and quickly pump them up for your crowd as the next best thing but frankly, this doesn’t often work. If they’re still not satisfied, the best you can probably do is offer full or partial refunds to appease people and pray they forgive you. Our best advice is actually to have event insurance. Then, lawyer up and deal with whatever contract you made with your no show.
#2 A FIGHT BREAKS OUT
Generally speaking, people attending events are like-minded, or at the very least have something important in common that unites them. However, we all know that especially with an open bar or any kind of borderline controversial content, sometimes the atmosphere can get charged and the smallest spark can ignite a big altercation. Should a cocktail party devolve into a dust-up, you’re going to need to have some strong arms to call in for backup. Even if you think your event isn’t likely to be incendiary, keeping even a small security crew on hand is probably a good thing to remember to do.
#3 THE AUDIENCE HECKLES SOMEONE ON STAGE
Most audience members will be polite, respectful, and kind to the person on stage. Every once in awhile, someone will be a jagweed and must be dealt with accordingly. This is another excellent reason to have security. Get ‘em outta here!
#4 safety and security concerns
This past month, attendees of the 2016 Arkansas Women’s Conference were evacuated while authorities investigated a bomb threat in the John Hammons Center in Rogers, Arkansas. 1350 women calmly picked up their purses and safely headed for the exits. We’d like to pretend that preparing for large scale emergencies isn’t necessary, but sadly, we can’t. Though this particular threat was not credible, there was relatively little interruption to the event because organizers and the venue both had worked together to create a contingency plan in advance.
#5 YOUR VENUE DITCHES AT THE LAST MINUTE
No one wants to get that call: there’s been a flood / water leak / fire / health department shutdown / reservation double-booking and the venue for your event that’s happening next week is no longer available. How the heck are you supposed to tell hundreds (if not thousands) of people that the venue will change? Well, first, you must scramble like heck to find a new, suitable venue in your price range (researching and having a couple of back ups just in case seems like a good thing to integrate into your planning now, doesn’t it?). Once you have located a replacement space, then get your entire crew on deck to spread the word. Using the same network and methodology you used for PR and marketing is the simplest way: fire out the message on every social media channel, your email list, texts, phone calls, you name it. Make sure you do it multiple times, too, with plenty of reminders so no one misses the change.
#6 NO ONE COMES TO YOUR EVENT
You have a great event planned: great content, insightful speakers, beautiful venue, fun theme, amazing catering. And on the day of, the venue which seats 1000 is an echo chamber. You feel like that person whose prom date doesn’t show up. So what went wrong? Before you run to lock yourself into the nearest utility closet and cry, get on every social media account you’ve got and make some special offers to get last minute butts in seats. Send out an email blast. Tweet the heck out of this thing. Instagram an empty seat and offer it for half price (or free). Whatever it takes. Then, wait and see what happens. If, tragically, still no one comes the most effective thing is to be honest with yourself and your team about your opportunities for improvement the next time around. Was your marketing off? Did your PR strategy fail? Was there not enough communication to your audience? It’s a good time to learn some hard lessons and frankly, we have all had those in the course of our careers. Chin up and better luck next time, champ.
#7 EVERYONE GOES TO THE WRONG PLACE
We can sum this one up in two words: logistical nightmare. This misstep is best prevented than dealt with on the backend. Make sure that everyone knows how to spell the name. (Is it Il Cantinori or Il Cantonoro?) Any given city might have a Springfield Club and a Springfield Hotel--be sure everyone knows which one is your location. Likewise, address names can be confusing. Your event city might have a Martin Luther King Drive and a Martin Luther King Avenue. Getting all of the details correct in the first place is essential for avoiding confusion. However, should this unfortunate thing happen at your event, take the same tactics we recommended for a venue change in #5. Get the word out as fast and as widely as possible and get everyone where they are supposed to be lickety split.
#8 IT RAINS ON YOUR PARADE
There is a reason why these are known as “acts of God.” We humans are not at all in control of the weather But, as your therapist might say, you can control how you respond. We touched on this in our (equally awesome) post on Event #Fails and How to Avoid Them but since we can’t guarantee a day that’s sunny and 74, we encourage you to try a few things: plan your event in a season when the weather is best, have a solid backup plan for outdoor venues, and make sure that you have plenty of umbrellas on hand.
#9 YOUR PRESENTER IS AWFUL
He’s bombastic, egotistical, overbearing, incorrect, unprepared and drones on and on and on and on...while he does all this, multiple people walk out. And then, your post-event surveys show an even more grim picture of the speaker’s failure from people too polite to leave.
At one time or another we have all suffered through a long, awkward, boring or terrible presentation, speaker or musical act. The best way to deal with this is to thoroughly vet the person before you book them. Get recommendations from other event organizers. Hire someone you’ve seen yourself and LOVED. Take to heart the feedback of your attendees and make sure the next person you hire is the polar opposite.
#10 YOU RUN OUT OF ROOM
What’s almost, or just as bad as no one at your event? Too many people! Every venue has a limit set by the fire marshall for safety. Breach this limit and you could get your permit revoked or incite the wrath of the audience. As part of your planning process with your event producer, be sure to prepare an accurate CAD drawing of the venue. You must be sure you have the proper amount of space with your production design to leave room for enough seats for the number of attendees expected.
No one wants it to be standing room only when everyone purchased a seat. It doesn’t usually work well on oversold airplanes and it doesn’t fly here, either. To avoid having people elbowing each other in the face, make sure that the event venue is large enough for the number of attendees you expect, or cap off enrollment when you’re close to going over your maximum. You also need to be aware that all of these conference / event attendees will need places to sleep, eat, and park cars so don’t leave those out of the logistics, either. Last year, tech conference Dreamforce ballooned to over 160,000 attendees and the downtown San Francisco hotels couldn’t bear the burden. With inventive forethought, Dreamforce rented a cruise ship to house more than 1,200 guests. Sometimes you gotta think outside the box!
YOU’RE WISE AND EXPERIENCED, SO WE ARE CERTAIN THAT YOUR EVENT WILL BE #THEBEST EVER. IF YOU NEED MORE HELP, THOUGH, DON’T HESITATE TO CALL BLACKSTONE PRODUCTIONS FOR ALL OF YOUR EVENT-RELATED NEEDS.