9 of the biggest event planning fails ever

OK, it’s showtime! You’ve been planning this event for weeks. You’ve got every little detail nailed down, all your systems in place, the T-shirts have been printed in bulk and a solid team of volunteers is ready to go. Nothing could possibly go awry, right?

Wrong — as any event planner knows! Even the best-planned events often have something that doesn’t go according to plan. Still, most of the time your guests won’t even notice that things aren’t quite as they should be.

But not with these epic event planning fails, though. These are all too memorable for the event attendees (or millions of viewers) — and, worse, the poor event planner behind the fiasco.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest event fails ever. If anything, we can try to learn what went wrong so this sh*t doesn’t happen to us.

9 OF THE BIGGEST EVENT PLANNING FAILS

The wrong winner for Best Picture gets announced at the Oscars 2017

In case you just came back from your yearly travel into space, La La Land was wrongly announced as Best Picture during the 89th Oscars when it was actually Moonlight the real winner. It was awkward — to say the least.

Some theories of what may have gone wrong have surfaced and official statements have been made, but more questions than answers remain. Why wasn’t the protocol followed? Why didn’t they take previsions after what happened in Miss Universe barely a year before? Was it a PR stunt?

We’re only sure of one thing and that is that John Travolta must be happy he is no longer the biggest mess-up in the Oscars history.

John Travolta Gif - for biggest event planning fails

Rio’s Olympic relay gets out of hand

The Rio Olympics were plagued with stories about endless problems and issues. Despite doubts about whether the Brazilian city could pull off the Games, they went well (the green pool aside, although even that wasn’t really a big deal in the end).

One problem that did come up was unexpected. For the Olympic torch relay, a jaguar was brought out from the zoo to sit next to the torch in the city of Manaus. The jaguar escaped, and was sadly shot and killed after handlers were unable to stop it with tranquilliser darts.

Who would have guessed that wild animals don’t like being next to a big stick of fire in a noisy, crowded environment?

Barney blows up

Every year on Thanksgiving Day, Americans host the Thanksgiving Day Parade, which features floats and giant balloons of famous characters, along with plenty of performers. The 1997 edition was particularly memorable for a lot of children, as that was the year the massive Barney balloon exploded. The effect was more Godzilla than friendly purple dinosaur.

The event planners may not have been able to do anything about the winds that sent Barney to his untimely end by blowing him into a pointy lamppost. Still, they did do something to ensure that the mistake never happened again. In subsequent parade years, balloons are grounded if the winds are too strong.

TomorrowWorld accidentally strands its attendees in the forest

Having your attendees end the event by spending the night outdoors cold, wet and hungry is probably not high on the list of any event planner’s ideal scenarios. That’s what happened to the poor people who went to TomorrowWorld 2015 in Georgia, US.

The music festival was all going well, except just as the closing act finished, all the roads going to and from the venue were shut down. Heavy rains meant there was too much mud to drive safely. People couldn’t get in or out, meaning there were thousands of people stranded at least five miles from any transportation. They were stuck in the forest overnight, and they didn’t have food, water or shelter.

The final day of the concert was cancelled unless you were camping for the festival. The announcement said ‘Mother Nature has decided otherwise’ — little comfort to EDM fans who had shelled out big bucks to see huge names like David Guetta and Armin van Buuren.

It is really any surprise that TomorrowWorld didn’t come back in 2016?

I’m sorry, who’s calling?

Event planner Erika Turan wrote up a list of her biggest event fails on LinkedIn, proving that even the pros have had their missteps. She’s been an event planner for over 20 years, so it’s only natural that a few things have gone wrong.

Like that time she was planning an event with a guy who had listed the contact phone number incorrectly. Even worse, the phone number he’d listed was actually an adult entertainment hotline!

Supafest didn’t read their contracts carefully

Speaking of contracts, they can really come back to bite you if you don’t stick to them. Supafest is an Australian hip-hop festival, and they had booked some massive names for their 2012 edition. WE’re talking Rick Ross, Missy Elliot, and P. Diddy.

But none of those artists ended up performing. Why? The promoters didn’t correctly fulfil the agreements in the contracts. Oops!

The lights go off at the Super Bowl

The 2013 Super Bowl made headlines for having a blackout and halting the game for 34th minutes. Even worse, they didn’t give their viewers an explanation of what had happened. People wondered if there had been a fire, or even a terrorist attack.

Eventually, they said that there had been an ‘abnormality’ that triggered a shutdown, perhaps because of all the lighting and video effects that had been used for Beyonce’s halftime show. Luckily, they had a backup that kept the stadium from being totally in the dark, but most of the stuff did shut down.

That amazing, perfect venue cancelled – at the last minute

Creative Industry Hub was in charge of putting on a fashion show in London. It was scheduled for two days, and over 400 people had tickets to see the latest collections from five designers. Director George Taylor had the perfect place picked out after months of searching.

And then the venue cancelled.

Luckily, Taylor made a few phone calls to his contacts and managed to turn the whole thing around in record time. He got a company called Fashion United on board, plus got a well-known guest speaker to show up.

Starbucks spreads…something

Say you’ve been reading up on tips for how to use social media at your events. You’ve created a custom hashtag and you’ve got a system to share people’s posts in real time at the event on a big screen. What could go wrong?

Starbucks learned this lesson the hard way when people started using its #SpreadTheCheer hashtag to about the coffee giant allegedly dodging taxes. Even worse, the screen was displayed in a very prominent location at the National History Museum.

That brings us to the end of our list of 9 of the biggest event fails ever. Luckily, now that you’ve read this you’re well-positioned to avoid mistakes like these at your own events. And if something does go wrong, at least you’ll know you’re in good company.

Text: Jessica Bowler
Edit: Harald Meyer-Delius


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