Rehearsals, dry runs, and run-throughs used to be an important aspect of business in general and event planning in particular. But over time, more value has been placed on business competencies like "learning on the fly," managing change, and thriving in the midst of chaos. "Winging it" has become the default position and employees are congratulated for flying by the seat of their pants.
I don't think this is a good thing. It's hard to produce quality when working at break-neck speed. Let's not forget that, at this year's Cvent CONNECT, Arianna Huffington sounded the alarm about the debilitating effects of a frantic approach to business and life. A change in mindset is in order to reduce stress and produce high-quality events.
So what's the alternative? I would suggest that we hit the re-set button as an industry. Planning, rehearsal and run-throughs should be the default position and "winging it" should be reserved for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances that arise at the last minute.
What would this look like?
- Pre-Cons: The industry already does dry runs in the form of pre-con meetings. The key to reducing hiccups is to bring all players to the table. Invite not just the hotel team but the DMC, the company handling transfers, decorators, a representative for the entertainment. All key players need to be involve either by attending the meeting or participating virtually.
- Conferences: Speakers and facilitators would come in before the conference begins for a "bootcamp" and run-through. This would provide an opportunity for coaching and fine-tuning the delivery to ensure that sessions are more interactive.
- Catering: Caterers need to visit the site, inspect the kitchens and prep areas. Check out the loading area and inventory the supplies that are on hand. It often helps do this on the same day as the pre-con but well ahead of the meeting. Top caterers and chefs always provide taste tests so that there are no surprises.
- Team Events: Key players would meet, go over the details and iron out all logistics. If a route is involved, someone from the transportation company should go through the route to ensure that there are no roadblocks or delays due to construction.
My company has run a number of urban safari style events. Not only do we make a point of going through the routes and stops at least twice, if drivers are involved, we get into the vehicle and drive through the route with them. Just yesterday I met a bus driver and we went through an entire route. There had been changes in just one week due to road work. It was better to make the adjustment than to run into glitches with a busload of passengers.
These are just a few examples.
Winging it is the mark of an amateur. Preparation is the hallmark of a professional. Seasoned musicians, dancers, and actors who are masters of their craft would never think of performing without many rehearsals including a full tech and dress rehearsal. Top athletes devote a lot of time to practice and warm-up before games to ensure peak performance. Can event industry professionals afford to do less?