• Advice to Avoid On-the-Job Mistakes

    FROM THE Summer 2014 ISSUE

    The time Bill Cosby and I got lost in the Colorado Convention Center is my most embarrassing event moment. 

It was a simple assignment: meet Bill Cosby outside and escort him to his dressing room. I was privileged to get the opportunity and thought the task could not be any easier. Unfortunately for me, the doors to the Colorado Convention Center look very similar from the inside, and the task became way more difficult than I had first imagined.

Just as the limo was dropping Mr. Cosby off, I realized my mistake and only considered two options: 1.) acknowledge my mistake with him and his entourage or 2.) act like I knew what I was doing and sort it out on the way in.

This was only a few years into my event planning life, and unfortunately I took option No. 2, thinking I could sort it out before anyone was the wiser. Unfortunately for me, life was not so simple; it took more than 20 minutes to find the dressing room, and it altered the outcome of the overall show.

Here are a few tips from that experience and a few other mistakes I have made during the last 20 years of event planning.

Acknowledge the voice in your head.

Your intuition is a powerful tool. If you have the experience (belief/thought) that something is not going to go as planned, acknowledge that voice and look through your plans once again to remove any uncertainty.

When I worked for a city, I had a nagging concern about my fireworks vendor but did not listen to the voice and ended up losing the vendor 36 hours before the show. With a great team behind me, we found a local shooter who could work the show, a fireworks company that shipped the product overnight and the flexibility of the fire department to get the permits pushed through. I should have listened a little sooner to my intuition that there were signs of trouble ahead.

Keep your eye on the ball.

If the goal is to make money, focus on that. If your goal is to launch a new product, focus on that. All too often focus is lost and the show suffers.

A few years back, we were planning a two-day show and my intern wanted to make an amazing arrival activity for the group. We spent more than 100 hours planning the arrival activity, but in the process spent only about 10 hours planning the community day that was to follow. Our best plans on the arrival activity (that only lasted about 30 minutes) were amazing, but because we had not focused on the second day’s activities, the overall event suffered. While the arrival activity was fantastic, it was not enough to cover up a poorly planned and executed second day of events.

Speak up.

Sometimes it is in what you don’t say that a problem is created. A few years ago, we had a client that was not a great fit for our company, and we were to plan multiple events for them. While I could see very quickly that we were not right for each other, I held onto the possibility that if I altered my working style, changed the systems we use or committed to being in communication more, it would turn out right. Ultimately it did not, and we went our separate ways only halfway through our contractual obligations. In the long run, it was better for both parties, but in the short run there was a lot of suffering for both groups because of our lack of ability to say what was not working.

While mistakes, embarrassing moments and floundering all seem like a part of life, please take my advice and acknowledge, listen, focus and speak up. Success comes to those who are aware that mistakes will happen and take advantage to find a solution quickly.

***If you have an embarrassing moment to share or a story that outdoes one of mine, post it on the Colorado Meetings + Events Facebook page. This way, we can all learn from each other’s mistakes. We may even feature a few in the next issue.


Steven Stokes is program chair for the Event Management Certificate Program (EMCP) at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton and operates Events Etc.

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