By now, you’ve likely heard about Fyre Festival. The music festival was scheduled to take place in the Bahamas’ Exuma islands last weekend and next, but fell well below the level of luxury and entertainment promised to festival-goers. Attendees took to social media, voicing their sour experiences as they unfolded. Indeed, it’s safe to say, Fyre Fest went up in flames and got burned by the internet. Co-founded by Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, event planners now admit the festival “fell dramatically short of even the most modest expectations.” Their naïveté has now landed them a lawsuit to the tune of $100 million, filed on behalf of Daniel Jung, an attendee who paid $2,000 for a ticket package and airfare for the event and didn’t quite receive the ROI he was hoping for.
Anyone who’s ever planned a large-scale event knows Murphy’s Law has a way of showing up uninvited at the most inopportune moments – and, in Fyre Fest’s case, it may as well have been the festival’s headliner. The best thing you can do is prepare for that moment of despair and meet it head on with that in-case-of-emergency plan you should always keep in your back pocket. This, this is your superpower.
Read on for tips on to keep your seemingly well-planned event from going up in flames.
1. Practice the art of surprise-and-delight: aim to exceed expectations, but set the bar at a realistic level.
Make sure to communicate clearly and efficiently with guests/participants regarding the details of the event. Try to keep the number of email updates as minimal as possible, so as not to bombard your guests – but make sure any email you must send is well-packed with information that will be helpful to them. Consider creating a cheat sheet that includes everything they need to know about the event. This can include an agenda, packing tips/weather info, etc. By providing the basic details, you can adequately inform them while still leaving room for simple, unexpected surprises (that still adhere to the agenda you shared) that will awe your guests and enhance their experience.
2. Triple check EVERYTHING, including your back-up plans.
Check in with any vendors with enough lead time to fix any unexpected hiccups that may rear their ugly heads. Make sure you’re able to access all travel/reservation/contact information at a moment’s notice*. Identify resources that could be helpful in case of an emergency – vendors, travel agents, a teammate available to handle any off-site issues that may arise while you play boots on the ground. It’s always smart to have someone available in the rare event that you could need back-up.
*Tip: Hard copies aren’t so “old school” when they become your saving grace. I personally prefer to keep an event “Bible” (i.e. binder) on-hand with all event/contact details in one place that I can quickly flip through. Just make sure you have a digital version backed up somewhere that’s also easily accessible.
3. Be transparent (without opening the whole can of worms for all to see).
If something goes haywire, acknowledge the problem right away and let those affected know that you’re working to fix it. Not everyone needs to know the nitty-gritty details – that just makes the mess look messier. Instead, communicate with whoever is needed to alleviate the problem and keep those affected updated as necessary. Most of all, try to be as accommodating as possible. [Stuff] happens, but if you show that you’re genuinely working hard to make things right and communicating that appropriately, chances are that will be recognized and appreciated.
The #1 takeaway/hard lesson Fyre Fest planners learned last week? Refer to my first tip – essentially, be realistic. If so many pieces of the event fall through that you’re no longer able to provide the experience promised/expected, tell the people up-front (i.e. before they board a plane) and plan to make it up to them in the way of a refund or alternative experience. Sure, it’s disappointing, but less disappointing than being stranded on an island with the saddest sandwich of your life and no real shelter.