Recently, I emceed an evening fundraiser where everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Here is my story.
Alarm bells started ringing when I showed up for the pre-event meeting with the event planner and found no-one there. When I called him up, he just said “I’m on the way. Give me a few hours.” A few hours? We never did have that meeting.
At the venue I found the décor people were still arranging tables and chairs and flowers when guests were waiting to enter the hall. Apparently their services had only been procured that same morning. After a screaming match between the décor boss and one of the organizers, the guests were ushered into the hall.
The DJ put in a scratched CD and promptly left the room. I knew the CD was scratched because after 10 minutes, it started skipping. For a full minute. Finally the DJ rushed back only to re-set the music to the very song that had been skipping. We were then subjected to not one but two more sessions of skipping music. Finally I implored someone to advise the DJ to just change the music and play something else. And for good measure I personally cautioned him, judging from the guests we had in the hall, to play appropriate music. Nothing lewd please, I begged.
By that time we were 90 minutes behind schedule. I asked for a copy of the program. No program. Apparently the event planner, who was nowhere to be found, hadn’t yet picked them up from the printer. I referred to the draft he had sent me on WhatsApp and got the show underway with an opening prayer and speeches from the chairman and host.
We got to the high point of the event which was the airing of a DVD showcasing the achievements of the event host. I made the announcement, signaled for the lights to be dimmed and motioned for the operator to start playing the video. No images, no sound. Was the laptop faulty? Someone sped off to his car and returned with another laptop. This time there were pictures but still no sound. Another laptop was rushed to the rescue. Still no luck. We ended up running the video as a silent slideshow. There were one thousand DVDs which were meant to be auctioned by me to raise funds for various social projects. With all the mishaps surrounding the airing of the video, the host instructed me to cancel the fundraising appeal. I obeyed.
Time for the awards. The list of awardees was available and those who had to present the plaques had been informed of their duties. We had a problem though. There were no plaques to give out. I demanded to know why. The event planner claimed that by the time he arrived at the premises of the plaque manufacturers a few hours earlier, they had closed for the day. I looked at him carefully. I leant just a little bit closer. No mistake. The man had been drinking! We went ahead with the award presentation anyway, recognizing the winners and inviting them for a special meeting with the host at a later date.
Dinner was served without any problems. In fact there was too much food to spare. I later learned the event planner was supposed to have sent out invitations weeks ahead but somehow failed to do so. As a result the hall was half empty but I imagine that the caterers must have been paid in full. Who would bear this cost? The host of course.
The Professional Advantage
I found out that the planner had no prior experience of handling an event of this nature. He was not a professional and so the fundraiser was doomed to fail right from the start.
Who is a professional? My definition is “someone who knows what they are doing and does it consistently”. These are just some of the responsibilities of a professional event planner:
A professional event planner would have made sure all these items had been ticked off at the appropriate times.
What You Get From Pros
Have you worked out the cost of not working with a professional by now? Remember there is no substitute for experience and practical knowledge. What you are actually buying from a professional is peace of mind. That is why you will pay more for their services just so you avoid the event planning disaster I witnessed recently.
Don’t be tempted to cut corners and hand over your event to someone who swears they can organize it cheaper than anyone else. You will end up paying for their ignorance in more ways than one. Only work with professionals. You’ll be glad you did!
Have you witnessed any event planning disasters? Please share your stories, I’d love to hear from you.