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Cancel an event? Never in 26 years at VO! by Benoit Schram

04 September 2019
levis francfort

Every event has its own risks and vagaries. Tiny insignificant things that could ruin everything. But not if you respond properly and keep a close eye on the weather, the venue and the technology.

In our project leaders’ memories, VO Event has never had to cancel an event... except for reasons of national security. Because for us, every problem has a solution. Any situation can be rescued by adopting 4 essential responses:

  • rely on the expertise/experience/commitment of the teams;
  • stay calm and control your nerves in the face of unforeseen circumstances;
  • anticipate and adapt;
  • surround yourself with suppliers and service providers you can trust.

Saving a situation the day before or on the very day of an event requires a thoughtful, precise and organised approach. The main goal is to preserve the concept and the flow of the event at all costs, often keeping 3 main troublemakers in mind - the weather, the venue and faulty equipment.

 

The merciless weather

This is enemy number one and the factor that no event organiser has any control over. Managing it is therefore limited to anticipating its potential effects and trying to counter or at least mitigate them.

VO is regularly confronted with the vagaries of the weather. Such as the time when the Walibi theme park found itself underwater the day before an event involving 3,000 people. Or when 800 guests were up to 2 hours late for a Tractebel party in Tours and Taxis due to Brussels being paralysed by snow. Or when, recently, at the Levi's fashion show in Paris, which was held outside in Warner Music's gardens, we needed to find a service provider/supplier who could provide customised tarpaulins in record time to protect the catwalk and the spectators from rain that was much heavier than expected.

Hence rule number 1 is: always have a plan B in advance for bad weather, for a smooth start. Even so, sometimes an unexpected tornado still comes along and throws your crowd control barriers all over the place in front of the Citadel of Namur, as was the case at the 20th anniversary of Ecolo. All you can do is put them back together... in the pouring rain!

 

The venue and its surprises

VO's creativity is especially characterised by its knack for finding original, unusual, offbeat places to organise events. But an original choice generates more risk than a conventionally laid out event room.

The former slaughterhouses in Berlin, chosen a few years ago by VO for a Levi's event, are still an epic memory. The access points to the site were still solidly bricked up the day before the event, so the VO teams had no choice but to attack these obstacles themselves with metal bars and jackhammers. This was before plugging a leak in the roof in a rainstorm that was causing a flood that needed to be pumped out urgently. It took 48 hours of hard work, with a combination of stress, strain and sleepless nights, to get everything back on track again.

Hence rule number two: abroad, it's always more difficult. So you need to establish a list of local suppliers or stores that can help in the event of a disaster, from the local hardware store to equipment rental companies.

 

The whims of technology... and artists

Hazards can also come from within - often from the technology or the entertainment at an event. Power failures, faulty connections, equipment that breaks down....

Hence rule number three: always surround yourself with the right suppliers and service providers, who will test their equipment in order to anticipate any possible hitches. On the artistic side, we are more at the mercy of the human factor, what with whims, performances that need to be cropped, and artists that need to be reassured or, in extreme cases, to be fetched because the gig slipped their mind.

There are many ways to save an event from a possible shipwreck, and to date VO Event has none to report.

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