Monday, 30 June 2014

Web Sites - What ARE Some of You Thinking?

The reason there have not been many posts on my blog over recent months is that I am heavily engrossed in writing revisions to my two textbooks on special event production, due for publication in the fall of 2015.

In doing the research for the books, I have had to scour the web for information, mostly photographs, as well as interview numerous experts in the industry. I thought it might be useful to share with you some of my discoveries in terms of the quality of the product out there and how it affects my thinking.

Let's start by assuming that the reason most event companies have a web site is to attract business. From what I have found, some companies do it extremely well, and others fall drastically short. The ones who do it well have the following in common:

1. The site loads extremely quickly, within four or five seconds. If it does not, I leave.

2. There is no silly or overly fancy or overly artsy front page telling me to wait, or worse, not telling me anything useful. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If there is, I leave.

3. The front page of the site is attractive and highly visual. However, there is no cutesy music or repeating video playing. If there is, I leave.

4. Navigation to the information I want - invariably event images or company background - is simple, effective, and very fast. If I get taken in circles to other pages I don't want, or those pages I do want take more than a couple of seconds to load, I leave.

5. The images of events that the company has done are of the highest quality. This is absolutely critical to me in forming a good opinion of the company. They must load almost immediately and should be of high enough resolution to fill at least half my screen. I don't really care if there is a watermark on them as long as I can see the quality of the work without squinting. If you as a company are worried about your ideas being stolen, you are sadly misguided. It is far more important to have readily accessible a large number of high quality images. It will do you far more good than worrying about the very remote possibility that your ideas may be stolen. On that note, if you are that worried, then you better take another job since you probably don't have enough ideas to start with. If the images are not large enough or of high enough quality in terms of what appears to be the company's work at an event, I leave. Word to the wise - hire the best photographer that money can buy to take photos of your event.

6. They may use videos but they are short (i.e. less than 2 minutes) and get right to the heart of the matter, whether it is showcasing entertainment or reviewing an actual event.

7. The company information is complete and honest, telling me how the company came into existence, who the main owners are, and exactly what the company specialties are. No beating around the bush, no verbosity - straight to the point.

8. They do not use a form to fill out as the only method of contact. I have encountered so many companies that do not list any email addresses or even contact phone numbers. What on earth are they even doing on the web if they do not want anyone to get in touch with them?? This is perhaps the most idiotic concept that any company could use. List all your key employees, what their jobs are, and their direct phone numbers and email addresses. Not only have I sent countless such forms to companies asking for information, but most NEVER answer. You can be sure I will never seek out those companies again.

There you have it, a bit of a load off my chest. If it makes you re-think your web site strategy and design, then I hope I have helped you. Web design has come a long way in the last few years and it is not difficult to create a site with the qualities I have discussed.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Event Safety Guide - GET A COPY!!

This week I received in the mail a copy of The Event Safety Guide: A Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Live Entertainment Events in the United States.

It is unfortunate that they included the words "United States" in the title because this guide could be used in any country with appropriate changes to referenced standards and regulations. It is, bar none, the most comprehensive book on event risk management that I have ever seen.

The Event Safety Alliance (ESA) published the book. The alliance was born after several high-profile disasters (e.g. the Indiana State Fair stage collapse in 2011) threatened the reputation of the industry, causing concerned industry professionals to get together. The result was not only the formation of the ESA, but also this ground-breaking publication.

With everything you need to know all in one place, the guide contains 39 chapters (and 354 pages) on all areas of event risk, from medical and first aid to food, rigging, special effects, and on and on. These are not just simple checklists or references to other publications, but detailed explanations of what to watch out for in each specific area. It is the accumulation of years of experience from event professionals.

Since standards and guidelines such as this are only voluntary, there is not yet any mandatory requirement for event producers and managers to follow it. However, as an industry, it would be my strong suggestion that lobbying begin to turn it into a regulation.

You can purchase the guide for $49.95 USD in hard copy or electronic format from the ESA web site at

Well done ESA!!