How not to organise an eventOne of our excellent freelance sound engineers popped in for a cup of tea the other day and was full of horror after he’d been working on an event the night before.

He said it was the most badly-organised and chaotic event he’d ever worked on. It was a wedding held at a funky warehouse type venue in London, and whilst I’m not really keen on shaming competitors, I thought it was an interesting exercise in how not to do things…


Loads of what went wrong could have been avoided with a simple site visit. Our guy didn’t know if the wedding planner had actually been to the venue at all ahead of the event, but felt that if she had, she missed a shed load of stuff. Firstly, with a full wedding and all the catering and bar setup that goes with it, there was only one mains tap. Seriously. And no other source of running water. Which is perhaps not unexpected for a warehouse, but nobody knew until they arrived on site. Cue queues and stress. Same situation for power – only one mains socket, so the entire evening all the different suppliers played relay taking turns using it, and everyone had multiple plug boards daisychained around the venue (not supplied by the event organiser or venue either, but scrabbled out of caterers’ and engineers’ car boots etc). How the thing didn’t blow is a miracle – they had a ten-piece jazz band! Apart from being really irritating and unprofessional, this is illegal, and something that should have come up on the risk assessment. We’ll talk about the risk assessment in a minute…

On arrival, in an empty venue, nobody had any clue where to set up. There had been no site plans sent ahead and nobody had been for a site visit, so suppliers were taking best guess as to where they should set up. And taking best guess at where the organiser was too. The stage was set up once and then had to be moved. Really?! And for the duration of the entire event (get-in around midday) there was no crew room, no crew food organised, and no secure space to store expensive sound and light equipment. Our guy was asked to move his car from the car park and refused point blank, as he’d had to store his gear in there as there wasn’t anywhere else. The event planner didn’t check into the size of the band so had supplied a stage large enough for a five piece, and went pale when confronted by ten irritated jazzers. She ended up having to buy all the crew pizza in the end, to stave off a full scale mutiny. But who doesn’t take care of their team?! Without everyone invested in an event, you run a serious risk of ‘WTF’ attitude running rife.

So making sure the whole thing is safe would be an important thing on the most important day of someone’s life, you’d think? But apparently not. There was no risk assessment either. So the event planner turned up without any idea of where cabling would go, the fact that there weren’t enough toilets and there were was four storeys up. She had no duck tape or cable ties (every one of our team has a special event tool box crammed with this sort of thing) and no idea about the power source or water situation. From the minute she arrived she spent the entire time trying to fix things that she hadn’t planned for, and borrowing stuff from all the other suppliers to try and put everything together. She’d also failed to take into consideration booking any kind of security. So although she was lucky that there was no drunken trouble, someone had their bag stolen and she had absolutely no way of dealing with it.

Event planners toolkitOVERALL
Finally, a few things about the planner and the guy she had with her. The general consensus was that he might be her boyfriend, not that this is necessarily unreasonable, but he had a short sleeved t-shirt and loads of tattoos on show, and she was pretty scruffy too. Call us old fashioned, but if you’re running someone’s event you turn up looking sharp and professional, don’t you? Also, they’d shrugged off the need to supply music before the band came on (!?) and lined up a laptop with Spotify. Except they didn’t want to pay for the account so it was a free one, with ads pretty much every third song! Finally, our guy said he’d been really polite and helpful all evening, tried to help her not make a massive pig’s ear of the whole event, but he finally lost it when they were told the lights had to go off at the end, meaning the get-out had to be done in pitch black. She found a way round this apparently when our guy threatened to drive his car into the building with the lights on if she didn’t fix it!

Planning events is a complicated business, which is why people book people like us. What can seem really straightforward is often a complex process and only years of experience ensure you have the know-how to make sure it all goes smoothly. Honestly – you’re dealing with people when it comes to booking and executing events, so stuff can be unpredictable and something unexpected pretty much always comes up during the live event. But at least give yourself a good run at it. Plan as much as you can beforehand, check the venue, go through everything, brief your suppliers properly… all this is second nature to every one of our team members, but you don’t always get as lucky with your choice of event planner. Well, not unless you ask us to do your event.

If you’d like to talk to a team who knows what they’re doing, give us a shout.

How NOT to run an event
Tagged on:                                     

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.