Once in a while it’s good to be reminded why we do what we do. Today someone from The Eco Chic Event got a big reminder while lending a hand at a development breakfast for a national nonprofit. Warning: think twice before reading if your event date is near; this may give you nightmares.
What happened: Alex (let’s call our employee Alex) arrived at a well-known event venue at 6:30 in the morning to set up for a breakfast reception beginning at 8:30. The other staff member on site was socializing and the event director was nowhere to be found, so Alex set up alone. No problem; Alex could easily handle the 40 expected guests.
Just a few minutes into setup, a small construction crew arrived. There had been a miscommunication from the venue manager, and the crew had been scheduled to work at the main entrance. No problem; they promised to be out before 8:00. The event director arrived around 7:00am (half an hour late) and promptly disappeared to handle “a bunch of paperwork”. No problem.
By this time, Alex had finished setting up, but noticed that the Audio/Visual team had not arrived to cue the music and interactive stations, provide the microphone and podium, and perform the sound checks. The caterer, also, had yet to arrive. Alex found the event director in her office and informed her of the missing vendors. The director looked concerned and Alex recommended calling the vendors and offered to make a quick pastry run while there was still time. The director hummed and hahed and eventually said no. No problem; there were other ways to prepare. Alex found a security officer who knew how to handle some of the AV work, and located a backup podium and microphone.
AV finally arrived around 8:30, and the caterer not until 8:45, nearly two hours late. No problem; the host had shuffled around the schedule to buy more time.
Feeling embarrassed by the disorganization, the event director allowed the breakfast to run overtime – a great inconvenience to Alex, who had to have the area cleaned up by 11:00. Alex was unable to keep uninvited visitors out of the event space, and was equally unable to close invited guests into the area. No problem; a security officer stood guard while Alex stealthily broke down one section at a time. Through resourcefulness and cooperation, the public was admitted on time, at no inconvenience to the guests.
What should have happened: All vendors should have been on time (within reason) and all staff members should have contributed equally. The venue manager should have checked the events calendar before scheduling construction. A contingency plan should have been in place, especially when working with vendors who are notoriously flakey. Most importantly, however, is the event director. She is the central nervous system of the whole operation, and as such, she must be confident, competent, and decisive. This morning’s example clearly was not.
What should be taken away from this: Before signing a contract with someone, interview them. They will be working for you, so really get to know them. Ask questions like, “How would you handle a situation where (insert your personal event horror here)?” and, “Why did you choose the vendors you’ve partnered with?” Don’t accept their assurances that everything will always go smoothly if you hire them! Their answers to these types of questions will ultimately be more important than their answer to, “How much?”