Often times getting what you want is not the solution to your problems but the beginning of a whole new set of problems. Be careful about what you wish for because it might come true, that’s what they say and that certainly applies to the event planning industry.
Many dreams of organising big conferences such as the Mobile World Congress (GSMA) but that is until they’re in that position and they realise how much work that mammoth actually entails.
Organising a big event does not differ that much from planning a small one. In both cases you’ll have to deal with advertising, budgets (overseeing the production of personalised T-shirts, perhaps?) and the dreaded catering. The main difference is that everything is magnified — TENFOLD — what you love and what you hate as well.
With that in mind, we’ve made a list of the hardest parts of organising big events.
1 – Dealing with the unwanted attention
With success, comes attention. This is good news when it comes to promotion but not-so-great when it is used by others to promote their own agenda.
For example, the workers of TMB, the main operator of the public transport in Barcelona, went on strike during GSMA 2016. For those who don’t know, the GSMA is one of (if not the) biggest congress of mobile technology in the world. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world (yes, that’s hundreds of thousands) go to Barcelona during this week to do business. These professionals need to move back-and-forth throughout the city to make their deals so you can imagine how a lack of transportation can cause a bit of unrest.
Luckily, being the professionals that they are, the organisers had a contingency plan and the attendees of the conference were able to travel with improvised shuttles — still, there were many who had to resort to taxis and the overall feeling of the city throughout the week was of chaos. This goes to show you, that if you want to go big you need to be ready for unwanted attention.
Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
2 – Keeping it exclusive
The cooler your event is, then the more people will want to come. On paper, this sounds great but once you start to actually deal with party crashers, it’s not so fun anymore. Probably some of the most famous party crashers in history were the Salahis, a married couple who managed to sneak into the White House during a State Dinner in honour of India’s then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
In order to get into the president’s residence, the couple fooled not only the two checkpoints where guests had to present a photo ID but also the FBI that later had to investigate the issue. Before anyone noticed that anything was wrong, the White House crashers got to take pictures with a couple of celebrities and even talk to Obama himself.
This goes to show you that not even the ‘most secure’ house in the world can keep unwanted guests outside. Realise that this is a part of organising a large event and try to force every single person to identify and go through the checkpoint(s).
Note: Check out SNL’s parody of the whole incident. It’s hilarious. It’s got Kristin Wiig on it, after all.
3 – Handling the budget
Many celebrities have gone on record stating how the moment they hit big, all of the sudden, cousins they didn’t know they had, or friends from school they hadn’t talked to in years, started showing up asking for a piece of their new-found glory. Money tends to wake up the ugliest parts of the human psyche — if you really want to know someone, wait until it is time to split the bill.
When it comes to events, this means that the bigger it is then the more people there is to pay. Dealing with invoices, taxes, suppliers and vendors can get overwhelming. And that’s not even mentioning the people who try to make an extra pound or two at your expense by charging a little extra or including a ‘small text’ in their contracts.
4 – Interacting with trolls
At a first glance, it might seem to fit better in the ‘unwanted attention’ category but I set them apart because unlike the workers of TMB who used the exposure of the GSMA to push their agenda, trolls just want to cause unrest.
Why do we still have to talk about the harassment of women? I replied, ‘Because I think one of my biggest harassers is sitting in the front row.’
– Anita Sarkeesian
At Anaheim VidCon 2017, feminist YouTuber Anita Sarkeesian was the subject of harassment when a fellow content creator Carl Benjamin and a few of his followers sat on the two front lines of the ‘Women Online’ panel. Benjamin is a big critic of Sarkeesian and has created several videos where he mocks her. This has allowed some of his followers to harass the feminist gamer with rape and even death threats. Knowing this, it is easy to see why the creator of Feminist Frequency felt confronted.
Check this out: Want to read more about YouTube events? Then check out our list of the best YouTube events from around the world.
While VidCon didn’t kick Benjamin and his followers out of the panel (much less the conference) they did start monitoring the audience questions in the rest of Sarkeesian’s panels. Afterwards, Vidcon made an official statement where they expressed how harassment is against the rules of the conference but it remains to be seen if further actions will be taken.
This is a perfect example of how to handle a nasty situation professionally. These are both controversial figures and whether you like their philosophies or not, I think that we can all agree that no speaker should feel attacked while attending a panel at a professional event.
Anita Sarkeesian at the Media Evolutions Conference 2013.
5 – Failing
You’re a professional. You’re prepared. This will never happen to you, right? I don’t think there’s anyone as naive, but if there’s a small chance that this thought might have crossed your mind, I’m here to tell you that FAILURE is part of every career — heck, it is part of life.
Check this out: For more hilarious fails, ‘9 of the biggest event planning fails ever’
The bigger they are, the harder they fall. If you don’t believe me ask Billy McFarland, the founder of Fyre Festival. A two-week festival that was supposed to become THE music event of the year but ended up being more like a real-life Lord of the Flies rather than the beach paradise that had been promised. The Fyre festival will become an event planner’s cautionary tale for generations to come. The lessons here are many but if you can only take two home then remember, don’t make promises you can’t keep and just and don’t waste your money on models, planes and yachts.
These are just some of the problems event organisers have to deal with large events. If you ever come across any of these issues, try to learn from the pros — or at least learn from their mistakes.
Can you come up with more problems of big events? Then please, let us know in the comments below.
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