The Speed of Event Management
This past week, we completed management of a gala event in Los Angeles. This project was related to our museum client – and it was a very nice affair, even though the financial markets fell into the earth and other economic hysteria has been the rule of the land. But what is always amazing to me is – as the event gets closer, the speed of life accelerates – like a Saturn Rocket!
This project began in January, with a casual meeting of the committee that managed the event last year. Our role was limited in the past, creating the video for the event and the gala tribute book content. This year, we are in an overall managerial role, collaborating with our three key chairpersons.
For the first half of the year, meetings and activities were straight-forward. Some food, dialog, going through the agenda, etc. The meetings would adjourn and we’d conduct our business through to the next gathering.
Then, in July, things began to pick up speed. More and more deliverables were coming due in a single week. The layout of the event, the contracts, schedules and content began to overlap. This is typical – and if you haven’t spent the time in pre-production, this is where things start to fall apart. In this case, the water remained smooth and calm, but the activity pace increased.
Our big hiccup appeared to be food management. The food was going to be prepared by LA City Firefighters. Who was doing this? When? On a WED evening, while driving in the city, I took the decision to stop by a fire station and speak with the Battalion Commander regarding the food. Cameron and I spent three invaluable hours stopping a potential calamity with a simple discussion. Okay! No more worries… or so we thought.
Suddenly, on the day before the event, time was sucked into some type of hyperspace. A 24-hour period went by in about 40 minutes. What do you mean, it’s 4PM? I just got up at 6AM and that was like, ten minutes ago? And, as the event drew closer, the number of things left undone seemed minute.
As September rolled into view, the event began to take shape in a very concrete manner. PR notifications were sent out, along with invitations, posters, etc. At this point, the event, like Frankenstein, began to breath on its own. The video elements were completed, contracts were in place, and the tribute book (this time prepared by our team completely) was nearing the printing stage.
Suddenly, the event is two weeks away. Ack! Are we ready? What could go wrong? Our meetings are more serious and now we’re collaborating twice a week in person and daily via email, SMS, voice, etc.
Ah, not so fast, event manager-type! One thing we always learn when working with events is that if you don’t expect it, whatever “it” is will take place. In this case, it wasn’t any single thing, but rather, a series of little things. Radios were not delivered to the event. The setup began an hour later than planned. The hard drive with videos on it crashed. A street closure wasn’t executed on time. Each of these things showed up approximately ten minutes after the issue previous, so the process of killing “snakes” became an all day affair.
But, thankfully, because we had such a good team, the attendees of the event enjoyed a smooth, professional, and entertaining evening. There were no visible gaffes and several of the team jumped in to fill gaps with poise and calm professionalism. As the evening drew to a close, there were smiles all around.
Naturally, our post mortem will cover a wide range of issues, and there will be much to do in the coming year to top this year’s event, but as it relates to the types of events we manage, this was a fun, engaging evening. I just can’t remember too much of it, as it was over in a matter of seconds.