I've often said that one of the best parts of my job is watching members of our Advisory Board as they review entries for our Gala Awards competition. It's a pleasure to see sophisticated, experienced people react with surprise and admiration at the events created by others. I love it when one judge calls to another, saying, “Wow, you have got to come over and see what they did here!” You can admire all this great event work yourself; just turn to page 19 for photos and descriptions.
What's missing from our write-ups — because we just don't have the space to include it — is the wry sense of humor that so many entries show. When the client showed up for the installation at the event site on a beach — in high heels — “We knew we were in trouble,” one nominee told us. Another entrant was faced with a supervisor who wanted to change the decor the day of the event. To solve the problem, the enterprising event professional positioned the designer wannabe in a remote corner with a table, some stray floral and some candles, with the invitation to create a new centerpiece. And my personal favorite: The rental company that had to calm down a client representative who complained there wasn't enough ventilation in the tent — and threatened to cut off the tent's end panels mid-event.
Of course, so many of these war stories are funny only in retrospect; at the time, they likely inspired racing hearts, sweaty palms and a burning desire to enter a new career field.
I'm not sure the last two, grinding years of recession will ever be something we look back at with even the driest sense of humor. Too many talented, hardworking people had their careers turned upside down. We all lost something — money, a job, confidence in ourselves, confidence in the future.
Yet we gained something, too, and that is the realization that none of us is so brilliant or tenacious that we can escape having to face setbacks. Many in the event industry had to make some tough decisions to stay afloat. I hope you join me on Jan. 26 at the Opening General Session of The Special Event in Phoenix, when we will present “The Tough and the Smart,” a panel of successful event pros sharing both the toughest decisions they had to make to stay in business and the smartest decisions they made. It's information that you just might need when skies get stormy again.