Posted on

a lesson learned, “that” disaster story

Are you sitting comfortably?, then i’ll begin…..

If you are an adult of a certain age, those words will hopefully conjour fond memories of post school children’s TV, their personalities and the chance to kick back after a long day of schoolwork, with Bernard Cribbins and others dullset tones (even Kenneth Williams) as they calm us all with tales of adventure and chivalry.

I thought it would be a good idea to tell a Thursday story of my own, and in some way pass on a very important lesson to boot (after all, there is always a lesson to be learnt from each and every life experience…….yes, I am  over playing the schmultz!). I am not one to hide from the mistakes I have made, and firmly believe that you grow as a person for both making them, but more importantly, learning from them – and so, with that in mind…..

The year is 2003, June, its raining…..

The past 11 months have been good, culminating in some way after nine, with a life changing experience that indicates things will never be quite the same again. In my head I see a giant Countdown clock, and that music…

da, da, da, da, da, da (x4)
tick, tick, tick, tick tick, tick, tick tick,
da, da, da, da, da, da,
da, da
da, da,
da, da, da, da – bing!

Jordana, Rachel, Nechama Schlagman, born in May, and quite simply, beautiful. she doesnt however, sleep…..(and may I say now, all these years on, still not so much). As any new parent can testify to, possibly the biggest thing to try and get to grips with, is the lack of sleep that can be ripped from you like that plaster you leave on your hairy arm for fear of the pain ripping it off will bring (ladies, I whole heartedly bow to the waxing process). I am quite simply exhausted.


At this time, I am working in a well known 5* establishment, and the yearly event for a hundred year old (plus) “order” is upon us once more. you know the type, older men, smoking – and lots of it, thick, the type that meant the ballroom needed days of airing thereafter just to see the walls again…..lots of patting on the back and a menu that always seems to include beef…..rare beef! – although not this time around….

It’s my third year of doing this event, and that should have been the first lesson I learnt, to avoid complacency – but I was quite simply, exausted….details had been flying back and forth, and as is the case with most of these types of events the basic format doesnt change all that much….the menu however, does (as another children’s entertainer would say – “can you see what it is yet?”) We had conducted a tasting some months before, and as far as I had remembered, when copying over the event order for the evening, I had changed all relevant details and forwarded these on to the client.

Mistake number 2, dont copy – they tell you that in school, they tell you that in fashion….and in this instance, I tell you – “They” are right

So here we are, the evening is upon us, and the 350 plus guests are due in to the ballroom in the coming minutes. I am walking the space as I always do, checking tables, and glancing at the menus to ensure that my spelling is all correct (yes, it was reviewed in advance) and nothing has been smudged since production……and there it is….the spelling is perfect

The menu however, is not.

Think Alton Towers, Disneyland, Thorpe Park…..the moment before the rollercoaster tips over for the first time and you begin to fall
Think moment you open that envelope containing your exam results
Think the first time your girlfriend tells you its over

I am all there, and more – as the penny drops that in moments, I am basically, screwed.

To be fair to myself, and even though (for the last time in this blog I mention) I was exhausted, I think I took things quite calmly, as I realised 350 people were about to be served the wrong menu at their annual back slapping. Slowly / quickly (I didnt feel tripping in the back of house space would really help matters) I went to speak with Chef who, to his credit, actually suggested that he try and make the real starter (or a version of it) and some other mix and match for the main course….I decided this wasn’t the best idea at all, and with both the pangs of guilt and stupidity coursing inside me, I went for honesty over bullshit.

First thing was to speak to the client. Here I am, thinking there is no way these guys are going to get it. Why would they, I didnt even know if they had kids….hell, one of them looked like he ate them for breakfast, but still – my mess, mine therefore to take the heat for. I decided too, that I had nothing to lose, I already knew how I would rectify the problem for the guests, all I needed, was the client aware of what was going on.

I spoke to them with confidence, and although its not the most interesting part of the story (there was no bloodshed), they were extremely gracious about it all. I felt the abridged version of the 36 hour labour, sleepless nights, and long days at work was more than they needed – but they thanked me for my honesty, gave me a renewed confidence as a result of this.

I then went off and made 150 new menus that matched the menu the guests were about to eat. That evening I sent a detailed email to my boss explaining what had happened, an email to my team to explain what had happened and why not to copy over event orders, and printed off a big A4 sheet that I stuck to my desk that said “Today I will have less idiot moments than I had yesterday”.

And so to the obvious lesson to take from this all. As an Events Manager, we are entrusted with knowing our guests and building great memories. This of course can be done in many different ways and there is the hope that we will get it right, and exceed, on every occasion. There may be however, times when we need to act quickly, and take half a step back – recognizing that we sometimes take a short cut that could come back and whack us in the back of the head –  how we behave at that point, is what determines if those clients will come back to us once again, or feel they have had someone try and pull the wool over their eyes.

It was a night I havent forgotten, and a story I’ve told to many team members – and thankfully, today – my idiot moments are few.


One response to “a lesson learned, “that” disaster story

  1. Pingback: Mistakes, I’ve made a few…’s what I did next that counted « mondessinnumero1

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s