Following April’s issue of Access All Areas, Shout About London’s co-founder Stuart Groves expands on his rant about event mishaps.
Get back up again…
“I’d like to have said to Access that we were unable to help them out their article in event mishaps and that all the events I’ve attended, helped run or organised have all gone 100% how I/we expected.
Of course, life, business and in particular, events, are never like that.
Things will always happen out of your control, someone will make mistakes or maybe you just can’t balance in high heels *coughs*.
It’s about how you react to these situations, both at the time and afterwards. If you fall over in front of millions of people, get back up, stand defiant and perform just as badly (I mean well, just as well) as before. The show never stops.
Well, until it does…
I was at an event just a few weeks back in a five-star hotel in Hertfordshire.
All was going to plan until the evening dinner, when a power cut struck the area just as the evening’s entertainment was in mid-flow. It was handled quite well, we were kept informed as the venue put candles on the tables and it gave us something to talk about, which added a dynamic to what essentially was a networking activity.
I did feel the entertainment company missed a trick though. This was a great time to grab the situation by the scruff of the neck and turn a negative into a resounding positive. The act that was on stage half an hour later, when the power was restored, included a beatbox and an acoustic guitarist. These are guys that would be at home without an amp and perhaps just entertaining a couple of tables at a time. They could have been the heroes of the night.
In 2003 I went to the Anger Management 2 tour, which I think I’m right in saying was Eminem’s first tour of the UK.
Cypress Hill were supporting and mid-way through their first bong – I mean set – they had a power cut.
After some angry whistling, all the band left, except for one guy. He sat on the bongos for 20 minutes and just hammered them until his hands bled and the power was finally put back on. What a performance. We walked away feeling that the power cut was a good thing, as we got a performance no one else ever will.
Think on your feet. Utilise the talent you have, especially if power cuts happen and production fails.
Before Errol picked up his megaphone and Shout About London existed, we used to run high-end venues. We were part of a very small team that specialised in taking awesome venue spaces from just four people, to a fully-fledged events company, with operations and production departments.
One of the very first events we ever did there was for a major bank. They decided they didn’t want a technician, as it was a simple presentation with a few speeches. What we all hadn’t ‘banked’ on was the laptop not syncing with the screens. So what do you do? As a sales person who knows as little as the next guy about how all these ‘tangly cable thingys’ work together, do you try and help? After half an hour of fumbling around and sweating in front of what was now a room full of some of the top financial bods in the world, the help my beleaguered colleague had begged for over the phone arrived and fixed the situation almost immediately (after rectifying a combination of failed attempts).
These days we insist on technical assistance if you have even the smallest level of production. You can save money elsewhere, but not on the focal point for the whole event.
Equally as important to remember is, as an events manager it’s tempting try and fix everything, but sometimes you can end up making it worse.
Being technical doesn’t mean being able to set up your Sega Mega Drive once a year. Also: don’t take on things you can’t do.
Don’t take on things you can’t do
At our first ever Shout About event we were eager to impress. We sourced a great venue, entertainment, production, catering and even transport. So when I got a call at 11pm the night before the event, asking for a red carpet made out of astro turf, I said no problem.
The next morning was much more of a headache than it should have been. We’ve done all this and I’m stressing out over about three feet of carpet. Fortunately, they decided not to go with it, before I could tell them what a massive failure I was.
Don’t be afraid to say you can’t source something. Don’t feel an obligation to help, it can be bad for everybody (especially the bewildered suppliers I was ringing at 06:30am). Stick to what you’re good at. Just think how much safer you’d feel about turning on the radio if Nicki Minaj had stuck to waitressing.
Speaking of unwanted noise…
Hands down the most difficult event I’ve ever been a part of was a presentation for 200 CEOs. The building underneath us decided they were going to drill in to the marble columns below our main space. In fact, below nearly all our spaces. It was one of those times where only lawyers and very thick skin would get you through the situation. Construction companies can be a tough battle, with so much money riding on every minute out of operation. We were never told about these works and we therefore had absolutely no preparation to move the event.
We could have had a similar situation at a Hotel recently. We turned up an hour before the client to hear drilling in the road outside. By the time the client had arrived we had another room set up on the other side of the building as a contingency. This relaxed them (and us) no end. We ended up using the original space, as the drilling was done just on time.
Get there early (and have good lawyers).
Things won’t go to plan all the time. What makes you valuable, is being able to think on your feet and learn from your mistakes.
Like, maybe not wearing a huge Armani cape at the top of a flight of steps.
An edited version of this story appeared in Access All Areas April 2015, out now.