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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Conference Adventures Part Six: Complaints Happen

Time is ticking and the event is fast approaching. My day job has had me busier than we have been since the first few months I began working there. I had gotten used to the quiet in the office, but the execs had an off-site to solve a lot of bug issues within the corporation and as a result stuff is now getting done. It's a great thing to be a part of, but couldn't have come at a worse time as I am in the home stretch of the conference now.

Today I saw a Tweet about BlueGlass LA coming up in May, and (being I know the CEO Richard Zwicky very well) I dug around to check it out a bit. I found that this event that is talked about a lot and seems to have a very loyal following only has 175 attendees. That's just slightly less than the number EmMeCon gets and we often get called a "Boutique Conference", and I have even gotten feedback from 2 people that said they were surprised at how small the event was. I felt so crappy that I couldn't get more people, but kinda don't want more because then the event loses it's specialness it has. Perhaps BlueGlass has found their events to be the same.

4 Days Until the Event

Status Update: 
Speaker's Presentations (PPT or other): 1 (Simon Rocks!)
Agenda: Had to move a couple speakers around - but good now
Logistics: Meals planned, Speaker's Dinner confirmations and meals sent to hotel, AV guy all set to show up Monday.
Marketing/Promotion:  Tweets scheduled, Facebook updates Scheduled, still need to update Lanyrd,  finish last years videos (probably not going to happen now), print materials for event (signs, schedules, promotion of next events) and...
Master of Ceremonies: Yup it's Me
Volunteers: 2 Confirmed

People Complain

One of the aspects of organizing an event that really gets under my skin are the complaints. My first year I didn't get a single complaint, at least to my face. Everyone was very happy with every aspect of the event, and I event got people coming up to me commending on doing such a great job with the speakers, topics, food, location, etc. But then we grew - and I didn't get to say "hi" or get to know all of the people attending on a more personal level like I did the first year. Now I get people attending that don't even so much as smile at me let alone come up and "hi" or "thanks for organizing such an awesome event". 

Today I got my first complaint leading up to the event. An attendee that was giving me difficulty from the beginning said they were frustrated at the "lack of organization". Ugh - the event hasn't even started...

I try to remind myself that this just comes with planning an event. No matter what you do, there will always be someone complaining about something. Either there are too many emails, or not enough. Or the emails didn't have the information they felt they should have gotten, or the information wasn't displayed prominently in the email. Oh, and the food - the complaints about the food. I try to get away with not serving food if I can, but I feel bad that people pay money to be there and to not feed them is just rude. I finally found a balance that the Essential Passes (that go for $150 - $468 depending on when they register) don't get Lunch or Dinner. That tends to solve the majority of the people, and the overhead of serving them food far outweighs what they pay. The Full and VIP Passes get Lunch, and the Speaker's Dinner. I then get to spend more on the food so we get a great quality meal, and it allows me a chance to honor our speakers for putting in the time and effort they do to speak. 

I have to say my favorite complaints are the ones where people are just whacky. One person at our Hawaii event complained that her picture was taking while she was wearing her bikini... well, don't wear a bikini at a conference then? Or the woman that asked if she could sell her Luau ticket to someone else since she didn't want to go - the Luau was sponsored, she didn't pay for it in her pass (ok that's more of an odd question than a complaint). But my ultimate favorite complaints of all are the people that emailed me complaining that I didn't hold the Hawaii conference last year. Seriously, all the work I put into it to get no money and they are upset with me for not wanting to do it again?

So - complaints happen. It's still difficult to take since I am a person that wants to make sure everyone is having a good time. So, here we go - and here I embrace myself to be ready to take the punches thrown in my direction.