I’ve been in my current position for six months now, and haven’t had an event happen without something go wrong. I’m not talking about the little events, such as regular guest speakers, I’m talking the large events that everyone attends. By “large event” I mean school-wide auctions that benefit student groups or non-profits, foreign guest lecturers and artists, exhibition openings, and field trips.
I planned my own wedding and I learned a lot about events planning from that experience. With 150 guests attending, I had to learn quickly that if mistakes happen, no one will notice. If I run out of invitations and have to buy different ones to complete the batch, no one will care. If we cut the ice cream cake with a boning knife, and threw the first piece because it wasn’t thawed enough, no one would know. If we were missing an entire table’s worth of chairs, it could be fixed, and then no one cared. Working in restaurants helped with this theory, what the guests don’t know, won’t hurt them. They don’t know that we’re running short staffed, and (quite frankly) they don’t care, they want what they ordered.
Most of the people I work with have never worked in retail or food service. They’ve only ever been a customer. My different perspective comes out during these moments when events go wrong. Sometimes it’s a small thing, such as a meat tray not arriving with the catering. Sometimes it’s a larger thing, running late to our destination because my small team is attempting to get everyone in a 200-person auditorium to sign a release. Not only is it important for those involved in the event to realize that whatever it is that went wrong is usually not as bad as we imagine, I believe it is important to show compassion and understanding, especially with students watching.
So when my events go wrong, I just go with the flow. Sometimes when things go wrong other people react negatively, and suggest something like, “Yell at them! What happened isn’t acceptable!” I thank them for their advice, and then go on with my day. No amount of yelling at caterers will fix the mistakes from last night. Asking to speak to supervisors may do nothing more than put someone’s job on the line. If I can make the event work, with or without the meat tray, then that’s what I’m going to do. It is important we remember that we can choose our attitude, and no one’s job is worth a missing meat tray.