Unclear on the Concept: A Lesson in How *NOT* to Produce an Event

August 29, 2011 in It is what it is - opinion column | Comments (2)


So here’s the story …

A few months ago I heard about a start-up focused event happening in SF in the Fall. I’d not heard of it before and in reading through the details it intrigued me. I RSVPd to attend, and then noticed there was a way to approach the organizer to potentially participate. I reached out to the organizer, and got no reply. I tried messaging again after a couple of weeks … nothing.

Finally, after ignoring my multiple messages, I receive a note from the event organizer that is clearly a blind outreach – sent to the main information email of the company – offering an opportunity to participate. I found that a bit odd, but I’ve produced my fair share of events and know how crazy things can be, so I emailed a reply asking for a quick phone call to answer some questions.

I get an email in reply saying “My time is tight these days, but I could talk for a few minutes if your free now.” Putting aside my distaste at the grammatical error in that sentence, I called and got voice mail. I left a detailed message with my questions (things like: how many people attend, who typically attends, what comes with sponsorship with regards to visibility, demo area… etc…) and, acknowledging how crazy things are before an event, offer that if it’s easier for him to reply to my questions by email no worries.

Before I continue, a disclaimer:

I have produced and helped produce more than my fair share of industry events in my time. Ranging from some of the largest and most well-known conferences to smaller, up-and-comer gatherings. The stress of putting together an event – of any size – is considerable. The laundry list of “must do” activities – again regardless of size – always feels (and sometimes is) overwhelming. In fact, the smaller events can be even more stressful because they don’t have large infrastructures of staff upon whom to lean for getting things done.

I also know from my own experience that when you’re producing an event, and someone comes to you asking questions that are already outlined somewhere on your web site that there is a sense of frustration. On more than one occasion I’ve received an email or call that engenders

I get the following response from him:

“I received your voicemail. I want to answer as many and all questions as I can, but I’ve been incredibly busy with this event. All of your questions are answered on the site. It seems you need a call for assurance, but I just don’t have a lot of free time these days, so perhaps we can catch your company at next years event, and I will certainly have more time to catch up with you and answer your questions.

Best of luck and I hope to see you at next years event.”

Now at this point you’re possibly saying, “Um, Cathy … what’s the big deal?”

Here’s the thing … as my father often told me, when you are moving around in life (especially in business) you should respect other people, always be nice and remember that you should be careful as you climb the ladder, because the fingers you step on as you clamber up will be attached to the person whose ass you have to kiss on the way down.”

I did a little digging and found out that this particular individual’s behavior has ranged from rude and entitled to downright arrogant and snotty.

When I first started penning this post I was pissed (and apologies for the excessive alliteration there) and since that time my “hey kids get off my lawn” anger has muted … I will, however, be interested to see if this event is the abject failure and goat rodeo I’m pretty sure it will be.

I’ll report back.


2 responses to “Unclear on the Concept: A Lesson in How *NOT* to Produce an Event”

  1. Lucretia Pruitt says:

    Just an FYI – the name of the event is still in the email.

    Honestly, sometimes you sort of just shake your head and wonder if there aren’t nearly enough movies out there about not stepping on others on your way up the ladder that people should learn from.

    Arrogance is the purview of the very young or the very rich – but the ladder is actually easier to fall down than it is to climb up.

  2. Cathy says:

    Thanks for the heads-up Lucretia … I’ve removed it so as to protect the semi-innocent. 🙂