EVENT CHALLENGE 101: Our Event Venue is Closed!

Sequence is in great company when we say that, whether we like it or not, event professionals and their production firms occasionally endure a plethora of event planning crises, snafus and emergencies!  Part of what we love about our job is that we're able to turn the wrongs into rights, the downs into ups, our clients' visions into realities -- all while managing the anxiety of "when events attack" and making our client look all the better!  Magic!

But how do we learn to be such awesome event magicians?  Sadly, we all have practice. From bad weather to no-show speakers.  Catering mixups and rental catastrophies - we have to live it to learn it.  And boy, do we ever!  Then, we thought- what if we can help others learn from some of our unavoidable event crises?  We could definitely offer a little wisdom to our event peers around the world!

Introducing (ta-da) our first Sequence case study:

Event: 2013 Children's Choice Book Awards
Date: Monday May 13th, 2013
Format: Cocktail reception, followed by an award show, wrapped up with a dessert reception.

About the CCBAs:
Launched in 2008 by the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader, The Children’s Choice Book Awards program was created to provide young readers with an opportunity to voice their opinions about the books being written for them and to help develop a reading list that will motivate children to read more and cultivate a love of reading. More at www.bookweekonline.com/  Every year, the presenters and attendees alike for this annual award show are stars themselves of the children's publishing industry (think: Lois Lowry, Henry Winkler, Marc Brown, R.L. Stein) - and this time around over 1,138,675 online votes came in from children across the nation!

The Challenge in Brief:
This was not a last minute event- we had been working with our planned venue for the 2013 CCBA's at The Liberty Theater in Times Square for months!  After extensive planning, several onsite walkthroughs and a thorough menu tasting- our event planning would soon come to a screeching halt.  At 2pm on the last business day before the event (Friday) - we were suddenly notified by our A/V company that the venue's entrance was padlocked shut and NYPD notices referencing state liquor board violations were posted on the front facade.  Luckily we decided to load our stage scenery in on the Friday to have a leg up on setup for Monday - because otherwise we would have never known!  *GASP*

Despite our all-hands-on-deck approach to find out what was going on and troubleshoot, we couldn't get our venue contact on the phone, ownership was not contacting us back as we requested, and it became clear very quickly that we needed to find a new venue for our event. Team SEQ to the rescue!  Although our team happened to be spread throughout the tri-state area that day, we all chipped in to call every venue we've ever worked with that could accommodate this event to assess what our options were.

(Obviously in the meantime we notified the client of the news and assured her that we would find another option and her event would be fantastic! It always helps when you have an INCREDIBLY cool, calm and collected client that put their trust in you fully to get it done.)

The Solution:
As we searched for venues, we were trying to keep a few things in mind:

  • Hoping for a venue that was not too far from the old one, in case anyone still showed up there. We also added staff to stand at the old venue and direct people.
  • We also needed to keep an eye on the client's budget and implement a plan at the same cost. This meant making sure they could match the food/beverage and rental costs, and ideally the new venue allowed outside AV vendors (as the truck was already loaded and fully paid!)

By about 3PM we had a few possible options, awaiting pricing and in some cases if they could even order food for us in time! By 3:30, it was clear that we really only had one viable option: a new venue called Stage 48, which was so brand new that it hadn't even had it's grand opening yet. What would have normally been considered a risky pursuit - became a blessing!

Just 2 hours after being notified of our event emergency, Team SEQ jumped into a cab and raced to Stage 48 to meet with venue Manager, Eric Funk, to start ironing out all the event kinks.  Eric provided us with updated floor plans, necessary specs, complete access to the space and his full attention (over Mother's Day weekend no less!). We worked with an extremely cooperative executive chef who created and then prepared a brand new menu and staffing was secured for all aspects of our setup and event timeline. *whew*  All that was left was to juggle the standard event-day shuffle, which would present a whole new set of on-the-fly challenges. (But what else is new?)

Aside from a seating chart scramble, last minute wall-painting and floor-staining, a non-functioning elevator, live webcast troubleshooting, unforeseen line-of-sight issues for the stage, awkward backstage flow, no permits for candle usage and a myriad of other minor annoyances -- ultimately -- the event was a huge and resounding success.  Click here to check out the video proof! 

Everyone came together and made it happen as close to the original plan as possible. The food was good, the service was helpful, the award show went very smoothly, and  most importantly, guests had a memorable experience.  We're proud that we were able to come through for our client, and grateful to everyone that was a part of it.

We also further confirmed our conviction to a critical event lesson we'll dedicate to the Boy Scouts of America:  BE PREPARED.  It was not LUCK that despite every challenge thrown our way, our event happened to work out great. Our continued planning organization, detailed preparation, dedicated client services and hospitality (all while maintaining composure, sense of humor and a smile) met its match. It was the perfect recipe to overcome and succeed!

Any event emergencies of yours out there?  Please share in the comments below!  No matter how heart-stopping they almost always give us all a good chuckle in the end!

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