Above is the motto of marketing and public relations professionals when describing an event they managed. You think I’m kidding. Hah!
I’ve been a professional event and conference planner since the 1980s,
when I was part of the Bell Canada Golf Tournament committee. That’s a
lot of years. In that time, I’ve arranged corporate promotional gigs,
entire conferences, and classy fundraising dos. The key to event
planning is the second word: PLANNING. We try to anticipate everything
that could possibly go wrong, and plan for it. Probably, we are the
most anal, list-making people you would ever come across. Even so, and
even with a ton of experience, I’ve found you can’t plan for
everything. What can go wrong, you say?
You can have water…and well, water.
Note to self: never trust your new staff with critical functions, like –
for instance – the bar at a reception for 500. She took care of the
liquor license. The cocktail food. The entertainment. The security.
The insurance. Everything, in fact, except actually hiring the bars
plus bartenders plus spirits. One hour before the event-start, we were
frantically on the phone with a nearby hotel, working a deal to borrow
all the staff and spirits they could muster. They came through, bless
their extremely expensive hearts. As conference-goers waited in the two
interminable bar lineups, senior management sashayed up and down the
line with lavish finger food to stall the riots. “It’s so nice to see
all the executives get involved like this,” said happy munchers,
blissfully unaware of their near-dry event.
Said senior managers took turns slurping the bottle behind the stage.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS put booze and the serving of which at the top of
your checklist. People will forgive most everything. But not that.
But I thought Moose Factory was in the Prairies…
In Newfoundland, they have a nifty way to make a little extra money.
Moose insurance. No, really. I used to work for a really big health
care association that had conferences across Canada. The national
conference was in St. John’s one year. It took a lot of organizing to
get the main sponsor’s huge demonstration truck across to the island of
Newfoundland. This was a million dollar vehicle filled with the latest
scientific and medical equipment, for demonstrating to the lab manager
attendees. Not a shabby enterprise, and the highlight of our nerdy
conference, seeing all those state of the art goodies. That truck
Until it was totalled by a Moose on the highway.
Lesson learned: ALWAYS get moose insurance. Yes, this is a thing.
Bus 54, where ARE you?
Wine tour. Yes, those words should never be allowed together. People
who go on wine tours invariably like to drink. As you might expect, so
do their bus drivers.
It takes 45 minutes to get from Hamilton to Niagara Falls. A convoy of
six buses started out. Three hours later, five buses made it for the
dinner theatre. The sixth made a slight detour to a winery and never
got out of the tasting room. Nobody there minded. They had a kick-ass
time in the attached resto. I’m told everyone forgot about the dinner
theatre in Niagara. We tried to reach them. But the ribald singing
made it hard for people to hear their phones.
Lesson learned: Never *start* your event at a winery.
Dogs and dragons…it will never work.
Twenty years ago, I joined the PR staff of a major urban teaching
hospital. Anxious to show our commitment to multiculturalism, we
scheduled several ethnic lunch days in the cafeteria, complete with food
and entertainment. You can imagine our excitement when the local
Chinese community agreed to bring costumed dancers with elaborate twelve
foot dragon into our facility.
So it was with great pride and a certain amount of smugness that we had
news media standing by. Not only that, the local television station
agreed to film the event. All good. Hundreds of people crowded in.
The music started up. The dancers came on stage. The twelve foot long
colourful paper undulating dragon was magnificent. Cameras rolled.
Cut scene to our blind physiotherapist on staff, who came into the
cafeteria with his seeing eye dog Mack. Mack took one look at the huge
dragon and took off, knocking over his master and a table full of
thoughtfully provided multicultural food. Dog went crashing into
dragon: Rips, screams, people running, tables falling, and all this
thoughtfully caught on camera for the six o’clock news. “Hamilton
Hospital celebrates Multiculturalism”
We called in every favour we had banked from every media person in town, to keep this off the news.
Lesson learned: The event was a success. Only the dragon died.