How to avoid event management disasters

Tue 1 Dec 2020

Event planning is unpredictable by nature – no two events are the same and even the most organised event planner can suffer from unexpected setbacks. However, as these catastrophic failures show, preparation goes a long way toward avoiding major event management disasters.

Fyre Festival

What went wrong?

What went right? This 2017 disaster was marketed as an exclusive, luxury music festival in the Bahamas, with ticket packages costing up to $250,000. Promising amenities such as gourmet catering, fancy villa-style housing, and a real-life treasure hunt offering up to $1 million in luxury prizes, organisers Billy McFarland and Ja Rule hyped Fyre to be bigger than Coachella. In reality, it was the biggest festival flop of all time – headliners Blink-182 pulled out the day before the event was due to begin, attendees arrived to find disaster relief tents in place of the luxury accommodation they were expecting, and the gourmet food turned out to be pitiful cold cheese sandwiches. As sewage facilities broke around the site, the festival was cancelled on the first day, leaving many guests stranded on the island.

How could it have been prevented?

  • Proper research into the proposed venue would have shown that the Exumas section of the Bahamas had no working water or sewage, making it completely unsuitable for an event of Fyre’s magnitude.
  • Effective budgeting should have prevented organisers from spending thousands of dollars on social media ‘influencers’ before paying bands and vendors.
  • Realistic goals on the part of the organisers would have scaled down the event so that it had the potential to grow over time. By trying to compete with established festivals such as Coachella from the outset, the Fyre organisers were in over their heads.
  • Better time management and the patience to fully plan the event and raise the capital needed before rushing into selling tickets would have avoided the need to make the festival happen in an unrealistic time frame.

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Hope & Glory Festival

What went wrong?

In August 2017, Liverpool’s Hope & Glory Festival was cut short due to a catalogue of failures, including a lack of emergency evacuation plan, overcrowding, and acts being cancelled at the last minute. The organisers went into liquidation while owing nearly £900,000 to 32 creditors.

How could it have been prevented?

  • An effective event management plan would have meant that issues such as a designated area for lost children or vulnerable adults, emergency evacuation plan, and proper signage were resolved prior to the start of the festival.
  • Briefing staff to ensure that everyone knew what was supposed to happen and when would have avoided confusion and panic on the day of the event.
  • Key organisers remaining on site throughout is vital for a successful event – the event manager for Hope & Glory disappeared on the day of the festival and was uncontactable throughout the rest of the event.

Want to learn how to get it right?

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Creative Events Management, Blog

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