Expectations. We all have them. Especially when it comes to attending an event. We scout out who’s going to be there, guess what the entertainment will be like, what our exit strategy is in case it sucks. Most of the time we are pleasantly surprised by how it turns out. Sometimes we are underwhelmed. Either way, it’s usually not exactly how we envisioned it would be. Managing an event brings on the same jitters, and expectations. And it usually also isn’t what we envisioned it would be.
With over a decade of event experience, I’ve enough know-how at this point to understand that when it comes to running a big event, the show oftentimes runs itself. Sure you can have all your ducks in a row — the perfect venue, logistics buttoned up, presenter notes written and approved, cocktail hour scheduled with so and so’s favorite drink as the special — but at the end of the day, many of the details surrounding your event are out of your hands. To stay sane, it’s in your best interest to be ok with that. Here are a few other tips and tricks of the trade to help best equip yourself for the unexpected.
Be Flexible & Stay Cool
You can be sure that at each event you produce, something unexpected will happen. It’s what I love about managing events and activations to begin with. Earlier on in my career I would totally freak out if something unplanned took place, and had to really train myself to keep cool in hairy situations. It’s what I’m there for after-all. One time for example, I was running the registration area at a high profile Energy conference when I suddenly heard chanting coming from the ballroom. Protesters had made their way into the venue. I literally broke out into hives, had I let them in?! How did they get through me?! Am I fired?! At that moment, that was the wrong reaction. The immediate reaction should be to solve the problem, then figure out how it happened afterwards.
I also have learned that you absolutely have to be adaptable to situations. You can orchestrate how a night is supposed to run, but if it looks like something isn’t working, or people aren’t digging something, change it! Don’t try and force things that aren’t working. People will remember the experience they had, not what was supposed to have occurred.
Have a Contingency Plan
For the more obvious catastrophes like weather and technical snafus you should always have a contingency plan in place. An indoor alternative or rain-date to avoid wet guests, and someone on-hand who knows how to quickly fix a malfunctioning spotlight or microphone. Or perhaps a plan in case you run out of beer at a beer festival. Sometimes you have to live and learn and formulate contingency plans based on past experiences.
Your Team Should Wear Many “Hats”
Recently, while coordinating a Boston Globe event called “Globe LIVE” I worked with a senior video editor who was originally included to shoot the content of our event. The purpose of the show was to give a voice to reporters who had human interest stories that were best told LIVE. This video editor sat in on a rehearsal one day and shared that she essentially grew up in a theater — her father was an actor and her mother worked in production. She immediately dove right into the production details of our show and ended up working right alongside our director and the entire production team to help produce the event. She even helped me finalize the script format and cues, and planned out our lighting and transition timing. She essentially became our in-house professional stage manager, which was way out of her original job description.
People will surprise you. You will uncover unexpected traits the longer your working relationship lasts. It’s up to you to hone in on those qualities and apply them to the situation at-hand. The team that you’ve surrounded yourself with will most likely want to help you out in unexpected ways if you pave the way to do so. A cohesive team will also help to make your produced experiences unique.
Take Notes & Take Pictures
Sure an event may seem really impactful in the moment, but your recollection of the details fade over time. So make sure to regroup with your team once an event has concluded to talk about what worked and what didn’t. And most importantly, write things down so you don’t make the same mistakes twice. As much as memories fade — pictures do not! With everyone posting things on social media these days, make sure you have a way for guests to upload pics of your event by creating a hashtag, or assign a photographer or someone on your team to capture moments. Pictures of your event will go a long way and can be used for many different reasons — promotion for the next event (if recurring), recaps for your clients, marketing for yourself and your agency, etc.
So try and leave your judgements at the door on event day. Walk into each activation with the expectation that things aren’t necessarily going to go exactly as planned and allow yourself to be excited about it. Be prepared, but also be flexible and know how to recover from any mishaps that might occur. Most importantly, learn from your mistakes.