I love my coworkers and get to do a lot of cool things at my job. Last week, however, involved the kind of work you should only do if you hate joy.
Now, I’ve done a lot of event planning in my day, and it can be hugely rewarding. But even in those cases, it’s filled with chaos and unpredictability. No matter how much you
plan pray, anticipate, pray and prepare pray, nothing ever goes 100% smoothly. You just have to hope no one else notices.
When I got to the event location last week, my stomach dropped. Not enough chairs. I had requested more chairs the night before, but it still wasn’t enough; people were filtering in late and filling the aisles, disrupting the meeting. In four years, we’d never had such a turn-out. A great problem to have, but once again, experience and pre-planning did diddly-squat, resulting in me looking like an incompetent asshat.
I stood against the wall trying to tell myself it wasn’t a big deal, my stomach knotting as I begun to realize there was no way we were going to have enough time to transition from the current meeting set-up to the one beginning 15 minutes later.
And I was going to have 100+ people, including The Big Boss, there to witness me not making things happen.
I braced myself like Michael Richards circa 2006.
When the dreaded 15 minute transition period hit, the A/V crew ran around plugging and pulling things from the podium while I frantically tried to set up my laptop and connect to the new audio conference line.
“Is the speaker here?” Big Boss asked.
I smiled serenely. “He is! [Coworker] just went to get him!”
I returned my gaze to the computer screen, checking to see if I had the updated presentation materials that had come in minutes before. Hurry, hurry, hurry, I thought, knowing pretty soon my screen would be projected in front of 100 people so I’d better get the hell out of my inbox.
Okay, download new slides to desktop, close Outlook, sound off, Instant messenger off, PowerPoint slides open for each of the speakers, oh crap you need the webcast link from the email, open Outlook, get link, dial in, is screen working yet, where is the new A/V team, why can’t I hear anything on the line, do we have enough lavalier mics, where is the handheld, holy crap it’s loud in here and I can’t hear the operator, this is never going to work, oh my god, why did we think this was going to work, is the speaker here, is he mic’d, oookay now everyone is seeing a picture of my dog (just kidding I totally wanted that to happen), does Big Boss have her intro notes…
Okay. Okay. We have lift off! Holy sh*t what is that box on the screen and how do I get rid of it? Okay, okay, we can just slide it over here in the corner… okay, we’re fine, we’re fine…Oh my GOD that’s the wrong slide deck, say hi to Uncle Jesse again everyone…okay, we’re moving along now…oh for the LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY his mic isn’t turned on…
Once the main speaker took the stage, the next 45 minutes went by in a blur, my only thought being, Please please please let that be the updated version of his slides WITHOUT ANY EMBEDDED VIDEOS DEAR GOD PLEASE and let everyone on the line actually be able to hear. The speaker was a pro and fielded questions from a lively, engaged audience, allowing me to convince myself that in the end, the entire thing was a smashing success.
As soon as it ended, I grabbed my lap top, made a beeline for the parking lot, and wept into my ice cold coffee.
To event planners everywhere: I bow down to you (which you probably can’t see because you’re too busy wiping snot off your travel mug). …Can you please share your secrets?