Saturday, 16 November 2013

Trusted Event Planning Tips For Your Business

Melanie Woodward, founder and event planner, created Event Planning Blueprint as a result of her own experience starting events with little experience. Since 2004, when she started her event planning business, she has planned events around the world, worked with celebrities and sports professionals, planned multi-million dollar events, and has helped event planners with no experience start planning their own events.

Melanie now creates event planning videos and approached me some weeks ago to be interviewed. The results of that taped interview can be seen in the video below.

Melanie covers a wide variety of topics in special event planning. Check her out at

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Does Terrorism Threaten Hallmark Events?

All of us in the event business have become acutely aware of the importance of risk management over the last twelve years. The Boston Marathon bombings have just raised that awareness to a new level.

Whether it was political terrorism, whether it was a disgruntled runner who did not qualify, whether it was home-grown, or whether it was externally-grown does not matter. What matters is that it happened at a public special event. That event was what we might call a "hallmark" event. It and its larger cousins, "mega" events, often attract large numbers of participants and spectators from a host nation and from other nations. These types of events can bring in a lot of money to the host city. They can also become prime targets at which those with a cause can make a public statement. What will happen to such events from now on?

First, as with 9/11, the requirement for even more thorough risk assessment and management will increase. Invariably, this will mean increased policing, more barriers and screenings for spectators and participants, more detailed accreditation, more delays for traffic and transportation, higher fees for all involved, etc, etc. This begs the question, "When does the cost of this increased protection become too high?" It's a hard question to answer, because it means that event organizers have to balance their decision on whether to continue hosting such events based on their perceived return on investment on the one hand with the negative publicity of "giving up" and "letting the bad guys win" on the other.

Let's look at this decision, though, taking Boston as the example. No doubt the Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau has statistics on hand which indicate the value of the marathon in bringing tourist dollars (external dollars) into the city. Unlike the Olympics, it is my guess that the marathon does not cause many visiting runners or spectators to re-visit Boston at a later time. Nor does it cause large numbers of tourists from around the world to flock to Boston because they have seen it on TV or seen accompanying tourist ads. Unlike the larger Olympics, I am guessing that Boston does not see increased tourism or convention traffic because of the marathon. The only money they see comes from participants and their entourages. In other words, it is a one-time event each year.

Thus, with the increased security they will have to pay for next year, will there be any ROI? If not, and if those expenses are now deemed too high, what happens to the various charities that benefit from the runners' participation? Even more importantly, will runners around the world and Americans in general, be more inclined to force the marathon to continue rather then admitting defeat to the "bad guys?" Why is it necessarily wrong to admit this? If it is, how much risk can they live with and what are the chances that "lightning might strike twice?" Who would be crazy enough to try to bomb the marathon a second time? The answer is all part of the risk assessment.

We have to keep in mind that the total elimination of all risk is still an impossibility.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Performing Mindset

Back in December, I started talking about performers and the reasons why they do what they do. In this post I want to discuss the performer's mindset.

Mindset – frame of mind – zone – headspace. These terms describe a utopian psychological state inhabited by performers, elite athletes, motivational speakers, and anyone who must be at their absolute peak of ability performing before a live audience. It is a place where their body, mind, and spirit meet in harmony in readiness for the task at hand. Only those who visit can understand how necessary it is to find it in order to give a successful performance.

Different performers have different ways of achieving this state. Some pace, some pray, some joke, some drink coffee, some intently review scripts, some practice, some stretch or do exercises, some just talk, but everyone does it, either consciously or sub-consciously. Indeed, some performers have onstage personalities completely different from their offstage personalities and people are often astonished by this. Really, it is only their inhabitation of a performing mindset that is happening. If the two personalities are extremely different, then performers may need some extra time to get into that performing mindset.

Anthropologist Victor Turner understood what is happening. Any performance, as he noted, involves “frame, flow, and reflection”. By “frame” he was referring to “that often invisible boundary... around activity which defines participants, their roles, the ‘sense’ or ‘meaning’ ascribed to those things included within the boundary, and the elements within the environment of the activity,” in other words, for our purposes, an event entertainment show. Performers recognize that the show (or “frame” according to Turner), is a distinct activity outside the norm of everyday life, and can be treated as such, so that they are free to be who they want or need to be. They can only get to this state by being given time to be on their own away from distractions.

What does this mean for event producers? It means that performers, no matter who they are, must be given quiet time before their performance, on their own, to find the right frame of mind. Therefore, it behooves the producer to provide such an environment. I consider this to be one of the most important aspects of working with performers.


  • Turner, Victor. (1988). The Anthropology of Performance. New York: PAJ Publications. pp54-55.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

My Latest Book Finally Launched

After a couple of years of writing and editing, my latest book has finally launched. It's a compilation of stories and anecdotes that took place during my nineteen years as an entertainment agent and special event producer.

No doubt everybody has similar stories if you are in this business. The problem is, would you tell them to your clients while you are still working? I no longer have to worry about gaining clients so here they are, all the embarrassing moments that nobody knew about until now.  This is what it's all about:

Uncontrollable laughter. Overwhelming tears. Thunderous applause. These are what every performer strives to educe from an audience. In my job as the person responsible for planning private corporate entertainment shows and putting the right performers onstage at the right time, it was also my goal and a measure of my success. Unfortunately, something happened along the way.

Jungle animals on the loose, bar fights, pyrotechnics gone awry, technical glitches, unusual brushes with the famous, a sweltering outdoor show for UN troops in war-torn Cambodia, and clients who committed deadly sins – these are but a small sampling of the stories that await within Stumbling Toward Applause: Misadventures in Entertainment.

This inspiring book is a selection of stories and anecdotes from the early 1980s to 2004, when the special events industry was in its infancy. While there are many entertainment memoirs on the market, this is the first book of real-life experiences within this particular industry. With the consequences of human frailty as the overarching theme, it takes readers on an emotional rollercoaster ride, from hilarious live, onstage mishaps to the poignancy of an actor’s death. Under the surface, though, lurk nuggets of wisdom and lessons about life, business, and relationships. 

Check out a preview, or buy the book on Amazon.

I hope you enjoy this lighthearted read.