I was once asked, “What is the difference in producing a corporate event and a concert? Don’t you use all the same technology?” And I laughed. And then I answered.
Use your imagination here, and play along with me. Years ago, I went to see Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas. The show had been playing for years to sold-out crowds (for a high ticket price, by the way). At the beginning of the show, their magical appearance wasn’t very magical. Their elevators did not work. The show stopped for a half hour and then resumed. It happened again, stopped, started again. After an hour, all was in working order. No one walked out. No one asked for their money back.
Super Bowl a couple of years ago: The power in the stadium went out. Everyone stayed. No monies returned. The game continued.
Now let me ask you this, if you have ever been in the world of corporate event production: What happens when things don’t work? The microphone for the CEO’s major speech fails, and everyone scrambles to deliver a new one to him or her. The generator goes out, and the stage goes dark in the middle of your high-paid headline act. Well, you probably won’t get paid in full, and it’s doubtful you’ll get the gig back the next year.
As if that’s not enough, let’s talk logistics. Concert tour: The lighting, the audio, the special effects, the content are all planned out for weeks if not months in advance and well-rehearsed. You’re in a venue, at an event, where people are paying for the scheduled entertainer. The trucks pull in, are unloaded, and the show is ready to go.
Corporate event: You have hours to set up, often times on top of another event moving out when you have to move in; tables and chairs are being reset as you try to do sound check (or even dishes and glassware are being set. Noisy, right?). You are not the priority, not in the eyes of the hotel, which thinks dinner is more important. There might be a lack of dressing rooms, green rooms, any space at all, even availability of a loading dock. The hotel piano hasn’t been tuned in this century, there might not be ample power for your needs, the staging you were promised is now dispersed to other ballrooms, and you’ve been given the wrong dimensions for the room, which, by the way, has glass walls on two sides. Bouncy for sound, right? Add to that when much of the audience would rather hang out at the bar than pay attention to the act.
Your client insists on recording the act. The tour manager refuses and tells you that, if you record even 30 seconds, the headliner won’t perform. The client says, “I’m paying good money; who do they think they are?” and the act says, “Don’t they know who I am?”
You’re in the middle. You’ve signed a contract and negotiated a rider with the agency of record; the tour manager has never seen it. It’s late at night; the agent is not available to answer questions.
Well, by now you have the picture. Truthfully, it isn’t always like this, but sometimes it is, and often, some of those challenges will happen.
So as I write about the world of corporate events, keep these things in mind, and by all means, share your stories with me so we can all have some fun finding solutions to some of the challenges that occur to all of us who live in this world because challenges are merely opportunities in the making for us to grow and experience the excitement of these one-offs, where nothing goes as planned, and every night is opening night (without a rehearsal).
Andrea Michaels has been a leader in the special events industry since 1978, introducing themed events and headline entertainment into the corporate event world. She is a founding member of MPI, SITE, HSMAI, and ISES. Having attended UC/Berkeley and UCLA, with graduate work at California State University, Los Angeles, her degrees are in Sociology and Criminal Psychology. She published her first book at age six, wrote a television script at age eight, and continues her journey of creativity by continuing innovations in the event world. She teaches at the university level as well as within the industry and says that each time she teaches, she learns as well. She founded her company Extraordinary Events in 1988. She will also chair three corporate event design panels at LDI2015, info at www.ldishow.com