I recently travelled to Tennessee for a friend’s graduation. Unfortunately, the trip did not go as planned.
The chaos of the trip reminded me of a few lessons that I hope we, as event organizers, can all appreciate.
Embrace the Unexpected
The curve balls were coming across the platebefore I even stepped on the plane. I got to the airport and realized that I left my ID at the previous night’s event, making it impossible to board. Once my ride came back to pick me up, we realized that we were at the wrong airport.
I furiously began to call anyone I could – the venue, the event contact – from the previous night’s event to track down my ID. It was clear, however, that I was going to miss my flight.
The more I thought about it, the more frustrated I got, especially because it was something that I could have easily avoided. I had to take a step back and remind myself that dwelling on it was doing nothing to solve the problem. I needed to focus on a series of solutions that would put me in Nashville by night’s end. I continued to place calls to the venue and the organizer of the event and rebooked my flight.
Event Organizer Lesson: Sometimes (OK, often,) things don’t go as planned. If we focus on the problem, we miss out on all of the opportunities or solutions that exist. Get an executable plan in place, rather than getting stuck because your focus was on the negative.
Being Nice Costs Nothing
In the hassle of rebooking my ticket, I was helped by the funniest customer service rep with whom I’ve chatted.
I was stressed at the possibility of not having a flight, and she quickly disarmed me with jokes and a calm demeanor. She even gave me tips on how to avoid paying significant rebooking fees. She was a rock star, and I let her know that.
But, I took it a step further. Often, all people hear is the negative. A quick break in your day to pass along a compliment can go a long way.
I asked to speak to the manager and conveyed to her how amazing the rep had been with me. It caught them both by surprise and, I think, made both of their days.
Event Organizer Lesson: So often we can get caught up in the hustle of getting things done – the catering isn’t there, the band is running late, the ceiling is falling and sending people to the hospital (true story, ask me about it later) – that we forget that everyone involved in our events wants to succeed because their name is on the line, too. It is critical to stop and thank teammates about what they are doing right. It’s a small step, but it can mean the world to that one person.
Little Things Matter
Finally, I make it onto a plane. As I board, I look down at my ticket and realize that I’m sitting in first class seat.
Did I pay for first class? Nope, not a chance, and yet there I sat, gladly accepting the proffered red wine to soothe my nerves after a jittery day of traveling.
Without any provocation by me, and actually with no notice, the airline had taken it upon themselves to upgrade a random patron to first class. It struck me that, in a sea of other passengers, I was fortunate enough to get a little bit of grace bestowed on me by an airline who most assuredly didn’t really know me outside of my confirmation number, but you can be assured that I will remember them in the future.
Event Organizer Lesson: Sometimes little gifts to our partners and event attendees can go a long way. It could be something as simple as a flower on a birthday, or a gift card after a successful event, or moving someone from a bad seat to a good one at your event simply because one became available. Whatever it is, remember that it’s often the things which cost us nothing (or very little) that mean the most to the people that are around us.
I finally arrived at my destination. I crashed for the night, planning to wake up and work before the graduation.
Unfortunately, the Internet had planned differently. Shortly after I woke up, I discovered that there was no Internet – none, not one single bar of service. I tried to figure out ways to connect one of my myriad mobile devices in an attempt to get a few bars of service and work. I had to work, I had to get stuff done, I had to get ready for my week.
But did I? Was I really going to fall that far behind? No. I was so programmed to be connected, though, that the prospect of not being so was frustrating and scary.
So, I made a decision. I closed my laptop, hid my work cell phone and tried to enjoy the time that I had with friends. It was well worth it. I’d be lying if I said that I unplugged perfectly (remember those myriad devices), but I disconnected more than usual. As such, I’m headed back to work this week with more clarity and direction, because I decided to take a breath and enjoy the company of my friends.
Event Organizer Lesson: It’s easy to feel the need to connect; what is difficult is remembering that the connection doesn’t always need a signal. Sometimes the best connection can come when you (gasp) sit down and talk with someone over dinner or a drink, with nothing else going on around you. Take some time to unplug from the everyday and see what a difference it can make.
I’d love to say that the return flight went as planned, but it did not. There were flights turned around, missed connections, and forced overnight layovers. These lessons from the trip, however, prepared me for the return. I’m hoping they will keep me (and you, too!) prepped for the unexpected experiences of these crazy event-planning lives that we lead. Happy trails!