Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to read a number of articles regarding event trends.  Some were forwarded to me.  Some I dug up myself trying to stay abreast of new event ideas.  There is no doubt that the event universe is expanding at a rapid rate.  The pie is growing larger and at the same time being cut into many more pieces.  While some of the ideas I’ve seen out there are terrifically creative and make me proud of the originator and the industry I’ve spent so many years in, some are a rehash of tried and true event ideas with or without a new twist.

More concerning to me though are the number of articles arriving on my screen about events with bad news as the subject, some including downright tragic details.

The stories range from a lack of fluids available for marathon participants during an “unexpected” heat wave, to stage collapses, hundreds of flooded cars parked in a low-lying field after a “freak” storm, and tragic injuries and deaths of participants who signed up for a challenging day with friends.  Sadly, they also now include instances of would-be producers selling thousands of cheap tickets to events they market well but can’t produce because they couldn’t run a budget.

The majority of the negative stories I’ve read have one thing in common:  a lack of adequate planning, with risk management and financial responsibility topping the list.

Let’s face it.  Anytime a large group of people gather there is some risk, and depending on the activity they’ve gathered for, the location and the conditions, the risks can increase dramatically.  By and large, good event producers spend a considerable amount of time to reduce risk as best they can, and are generally successful in mitigating those risks.  But all of us in the special events industry, whether for event fundraising, marketing, PR, music or athletic events are affected by a poorly produced event.   And the more prevalent or prominent they are, the more we are all affected.

The responsibilities we have not only involve keeping our participants safe (and in the extreme occasionally making the call to cancel an event to ensure that safety), but also being a good steward of the sites we use and their neighbors, properly designing and correctly implementing the equipment being used, and being a good partner with the police, fire and governmental agencies we work with.  It’s one of the reasons we’re on the “A” list with the National Parks Service for sites like the National Mall in DC.  But we’ve also experienced difficulties in securing sites and permits around the nation not because of the good work we’ve done, but because of the poor work someone else has.

At a time when our event space is becoming more and more crowded, bringing into question the experience level each company brings forth, we need to be that much more mindful of who we pick as vendors or partners, and how we manage them. Proper planning with the authorities, eliminating hazards, executing at a high level and cleaning up after ourselves are all key ingredients to a successful event.  And our ability to bring the public back to do it again.

Accidents do happen, and there are occasional outcomes that no amount of planning would have changed.  But when an event creates a negative experience or story, it’s not just the people involved in that place or moment in time that suffers.  It’s the industry as a whole.

The one trend that never gets old is event safety. I leave you with one piece of advice that needs to be at the top of each event planner’s priority list: Let’s be careful out there.

Mike Murphy, Executive VP of Event Concepts/Production, draws upon more than 25 years of concert and corporate special events production experience to create spectacularly creative experiences for our Event 360 clients. A co-founder of Event 360, Mike is an Emmy Award-winning professional who has developed brand-building events, product launches and tours worldwide. 

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