By David Hayward, Orange Productions Relationship Director
DISASTER, FIASCO, CHAOS are words no-one wants to hear . let alone attached to an event! The Fyre Festival failed on an epic scale, set social media on fire and brought to life the worst fears of marketing, comms and events professionals.
What lessons can we learn for our own work? How can we create magical experiences and avoid getting burnt?
SPOILER: In a large part, it’s in all the structure. It’s in the gritty details, down-and-dirty project management that enables the truly amazing, ambitious things to happen.
Hype Versus Reality: A Dire Festival Story
By now, even if you were living on a failed development on a remote island in the Caribbean, you’ve probably heard something about the Fyre Festival. The event that has not only become a synonym for a disaster of hubris, incompetence and public failure – it is the worst nightmares of event people, myself included, brought to life in the real world.
To recap, the Fyre Festival was the brainchild of Ja Rule and Billy MacFarland. Powered by heavy promotion by social media influencers such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid, Fyre was marketed as a “luxury music festival” on the island of Great Exuma, Bahamas, earlier in 2017.
Unfortunately, the gap between the hype and the reality was a chasm. Toxic problems with every element of the execution (including entertainment, hospitality and infrastructure) meant that the event was being “postponed indefinitely”…. as people started arriving.
A lot has been written. A hilarious piece is talent producer Chloe Gordon’s account here: http://nymag.com/thecut/2017/04/fyre-festival-exumas-bahamas-disaster.html.
Mitigation Strategies to fuel the right fire
Event projects are brutal in one important aspect: You have a singular deadline that is steaming towards you whether you are ready or not. You need to take care of the unglamorous structural elements – things like project management and risk mitigation – to enable truly ambitious magical stuff to happen.
1. Work with the best
Timing is critical to respond promptly when a challenge occurs in a project. This is when you see the true value of working with an agency made up of experienced experts who know what they are doing – especially project management pros.
2. Work with (experienced) innovators who push the envelope
To create experiences that people will remember forever you’ll need creative thinkers who care about the experience of your attendees / guests / target audience and want to do something that hasn’t been done before, who are bold and fearless . but experienced to deliver the ideas.
3. Focus on the things that you don’t want to happen…. as well as the things you do!
While working toward the life changing moments that will be seared into your guests’ memories forever, you need systems and processes to make contingencies for all the things that could potentially derail that.
It’s the attention to great process, project management par excellence and focus on unglamorous topics such as risk assessment, planning and mitigation, that ensure that things don’t happen, that ultimately enable the magic things that do.