Be a duck

There is a pretty cool moment as an event planner when everything comes together, people are happy enjoying what you have obsessed over for countless hours, and you can’t wait to do it again. You forget how hard it was to get to that point and just love that feeling of having accomplished something big. You have created an event that your clients or guests or participants will remember for a long time. You made an impact on them and they may not even know who you are.

The best description I have ever heard of what it means to be an event planner is to be a duck. On the surface you are floating along, calm and collected but underneath your feet are frantically paddling just trying to keep from sinking. Your guests or event participants should never see the chaos that may be going on behind the scenes. To them everything should be smiles and rainbows and the best experience they could have ever imagined and more.

For most of us in the event world, we like to have a HUGE measure of control over everything. If we had the choice we would prefer to do it ourselves so we can make sure it is done right. Unfortunately, there always comes a point when you lose that control and have to just go with it. My ability to be a duck was tested to the limits when I was the logistics manager for a large scale fundraising walk.

The thing with outdoor events is that you often can’t have a rain delay so you have to be prepared for it to happen regardless of weather. Event week we were tracking the forecast, some humidity, possibly thunder (ahh crap people camping in a field with lightning – where was my emergency preparedness plan?!), maybe sunshine and heat, essentially the forecast was all over the map so plan for everything and anything.

Saturday morning, aka Event Day, rolls around and it is hot, so hot that the plastic cups literally started to compost themselves – so much for being eco-friendly. It is 7am and it is almost 40 degrees in the shade and we are in an open parking lot. All the walkers are pumped, they have trained and raised money and the day is here. The first walkers leave around 7:40am and in under an hour I am getting calls that we have run out of water. I am dumbfounded, we had water for 800 people for two days, or so I thought. Apparently there was a mis-communication in the calculations and we ordered enough for water for maybe half our participants for one day.

My insides are now tied in knots, I can barely breathe, in my head I have already fired myself, and figure I just screwed up something I had spent 8 months planning and everyone is looking at me for answers. The stupid phone won’t stop ringing, “yes I realize you are out of water”, “yes I know it is hot”, “yes all the ice is melting” (tip #1 ice will melt if left in the sun – read with sarcastic tone), I need a second to breathe and think. I hand over my AMEX and send a staff member to Costco in a cargo van to buy all the water she can fit in it. We station volunteers along the route with water bottles to keep people hydrated. We radio the afternoon pit stops and move water. We somehow get it done.

My stomach still flips when I think to that day standing in our dispatch command trailer. I wanted to throw up but with everyone watching all you can do is keep swimming. Funny thing is no one on the event knew what happened, just me, a couple of staff from my team, and the people at Costco who thought we were insane for buying them out of water.

Stay calm and keep swimming
Stay calm and jiust keep swimming
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