If we aren’t careful, being in the event business can lead to a life of “gotchas.” Never mind that we have tons of expertise. Murphy’s Law rules. I was reminded the other day of one of my gotchas. It was one of the most valuable lessons that I learned in the earlier years at Extraordinary Events. However, like all lessons learned, it can also be a lesson forgotten… until reminded… and therein lies the rub.
Lesson One: We had been hired to come up with an innovative method for Los Angeles to present its bid to The Democratic National Committee to host the convention (which incidentally L.A. won). So, here’s our presentation at the South Hall Lobby of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The DNC arrived by limo into an empty convention hall. Committee members walked a red carpet which led them to a loooong balloon wall that spelled out Los Angeles. Where were they supposed to go?
With a rousing fanfare of unseen herald trumpets, the balloon wall burst open in one magical explosion and revealed the entry to the South Hall Lobby where a long line of faux paparazzi applauded them into the hall. Down an escalator they went to join the executives and VIPs of the Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau and the city. Music. Morning fare. Very nice. And angels, lots of them. And then… from 400 feet overhead, accompanied by a beautiful piece of ethereal music, an angel descended and performed an aerial ballet until she landed at the feet of the DNC members and handed them Los Angeles’ bid. Magically, she arose again to disappear 400 feet above. It was a moment that the press wrote about and photographed for print and live television.
But, that’s not all they wrote! They also wrote about the angels that were already in the room, and herein is our story.
We had specified to our talent coordinator that we wanted a room of angels to circulate. I had great faith in his judgment. But I should have said, “Describe every person and every costume,” but I didn’t. So here’s what I got. One angel was in scarlet red lingerie and sequined wings. Another wore a Frederick’s of Hollywood black bustier with black feather wings (think whips and chains angel), and it went on from there. Yep, there was plenty about which to write!
Lesson Two: Years had passed since Lesson One. We were hired to produce a major, no holds barred, community event for what turned out to be hundreds of thousands of people, and at the last minute the client requested dancers to accompany the D.J.
I guess my interpretation of “dancer” and the local talent producer’s definition were polar opposites. His was “bump and grind” and mine was what would be appropriate for a family audience. All that the dancers were missing was a pole, and oh yes, a lot of costume. I had asked to preview the costumes, and they showed me a sample of one, which though sexy, was relatively covered up. My mistake was in not asking if all the dancers would be wearing that same costume. They were not. The others were bare…. very bare… as a matter of fact, too bare.
They had not been performing for more than a minute before my client on radio was shouting “get them off the stage!” and as the music was pulsating loudly there was no way for them to hear me until I had to physically climb onto eight different platforms and pull them off one at a time, with all of them resisting since they had never before met me and couldn’t hear me.
Never make an assumption. NEVER! Check every detail. Repeatedly. Ask for write-ups and descriptions. Ask for photos. And in the case of entertainment, check them out BEFORE they go on stage, while they are in the dressing rooms. Ask them to bring a variety of costumes so you can see what you are getting. Define what you need. What do YOU mean by “dancer”? Don’t ever feel too secure. Don’t assume! You know what that makes out of you and me!
Andrea Michaels is founder and president of Extraordinary Events, a multi-award-winning international event agency based in Los Angeles. Andrea is the author of Reflectionsof a Successful Wallflower: Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and an in-demand speaker and leading voice in the special events industry. She may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.