What’s the Greatest Return On Investment You’ll Ever See From a Live Event?

“Sorry, can you stop…explain that again?” was what someone I was recently presenting in front of interrupted me with when I made the following statement: “When I’m producing live events, more often than not, most of my time is spent not working to produce the event as such, but making sure you and everyone else involved are happy.” Damn it; my carefully crafted presentation, a live event of sorts, had been dealt a curve ball, so I interrupted it to explain further.

Live events exist in a unique environment. You’ve a myriad of issues, people and organisations to seamlessly glue together. Scope and specifications usually change rapidly. You’re rarely going to be in complete control of everything affecting your success. Typically, you’ve an immovable deadline and to top it all off, everyone is watching: you’re completely exposed.

Few other industries or activities operate against a similar backdrop, perhaps only the military and emergency services. Even live television offers you the chance to cut away to pre-recorded material should your talent forget their lines, or should you not want to risk the weather affecting your drone show mid-ceremony.

Egos, personalities and politics are an intrinsic part of any live event too, given they’re essentially about showing off in some way, shape or form; making the unique set of circumstances even more volatile and unpredictable.

This of course is what makes live events exciting. There’s a reason we prefer to be at the event rather than watching it on a screen somewhere. Live events are as real and raw an experience as it’s possible to create. The most powerful tool you have to move your audience to buy more of your stuff, think differently or to entertain them.

The fluid, often emotionally charged and extremely fast-moving nature of live events is the reason so many typical project management approaches, no matter how lean or agile, only go so far before they become largely useless in any practical sense.

Fear of failure though and a desire for certainty can often result in every element of a live event being engulfed by processes and paperwork. Potentially a bigger risk than the risk the paperwork was trying to mitigate, if that bureaucracy stalls progress as your immovable deadline approaches.  

It is people that make live events happen. It is people, or those people with relevant experience anyway, that can make the snap and impulsive sixth sense decisions necessary, often without anywhere near enough information that would otherwise be required, to get a live event over the line.

A balance between processes and people, or competency, is therefore critical to create the greatest value and impact with a live event. Given people are far more valuable and useful than any process or piece of paperwork will ever be, it stands to reason, does it not, that they should be your number one priority?

Whether you produce your own events, are a client, run or work in an agency or are anywhere in the supply chain, never underestimate the effects the unique environment events exist within can have on people in your own team or on those you bring on board. 

Producing live events happens in an alternate reality of skewed time and logic. The pressure this can cause means even the simplest, most mundane tasks can tip people over the edge.

Recognising this and understanding what everyone involved with live events can experience is why so much of my time when I am in any leadership role, is spent assuming everyone needs help until I have first-hand evidence to the contrary. I then assume that could change at any time too. That is why I spend so much time continuously checking everyone is happy.

I’d recommend you do the same, whatever your role in or with a live event may be. A little empathy goes a long way and given it costs you nothing, if it helps the people trying to make you look good make you look fabulous, it could be the greatest return on investment you ever see.

Will Glendinning, Executive Producer

Will Glendinning is a Live Event Producer, Consultant and Designer who has been responsible for some of the most ambitious live events, marketing campaigns and entertainment in recent history. He’s helped brands such as Coke, Samsung and UEFA along with the Olympic Games, world leaders, the Tour de France, military ceremonies and cultural festivals. He has worked for, run and built his own multimillion-pound companies, had his work praised in Parliament, is an author, speaker and regularly features in mainstream media.