Meetings

Lessons From a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the World’s Biggest Events

By / Feb 14, 2019 A scene from an episode of "7 Days Out." (Netflix screenshot)

The Netflix documentary series 7 Days Out takes viewers behind the scenes in the week leading up to some of the world’s most famous events. If you don’t think you have something in common with the planners charged with bringing a spacecraft back to Earth, think again.

While Netflix and Hulu’s documentaries about the massive failure of Fyre Festival have been garnering a lot of attention since their release last month, another event-planning documentary series from Netflix has caught my eye as of late.

This one, called 7 Days Out, takes you behind the scenes in the week leading up to six major live events. These are some heavy hitters: the Westminster Dog Show, the Kentucky Derby, the Chanel haute couture fashion show, and the esports championship League of Legends. Also: the reopening of the fine-dining restaurant Eleven Madison Park after it landed at the top of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List and the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft after a 20-year mission.

I enjoyed the series and seeing how these events were made to look like they went off without a hitch—although they typically didn’t. And I think it highlights some lessons that will serve planners well as they go about executing future events.

Practice makes perfect—or close to it. In the episode focused on Eleven Madison Park’s reopening, viewers get a glimpse at how servers prepared. For example, they are shown running through a pretend service, spooning imaginary sauce on plates and rehearsing how they would speak to diners. A service manager then offers feedback on their mannerisms and word choices at the table. Because of this grueling preparation, staff are prepared and confident going into opening night, which turns out to be a success. It’s a good reminder that everyone could use some preparation—including your speakers—in the lead-up to a conference or other event your association is hosting.

Nobody is immune from a few hiccups. If there’s a lesson to be learned for any event planner when watching this, it’s that no event goes perfectly. During the Kentucky Derby episode, planners have to deal with heavy rain the day of the race, which results in some last-minute changes. And a strong odor in Eleven Park Madison’s bar as a result of last-minute construction requires some quick thinking from co-owner Daniel Humm. (I won’t give his fix away entirely, but it involved a blowtorch.) The most successful meeting planners are those who can stay calm and come up with solutions quick.

You can’t go it alone. Events, big and small, are a team effort, and this series does a good job highlighting everyone’s role in making them happen—whether floral designers, seamstresses, dishwashers, caterers, audio and video technicians, and so forth. At the end of every episode, there is a feel-good moment when leaders thank their team for the excellent work they’ve done. As you go about planning your next event, keep in mind that you have teammates you can rely on to get things done, and definitely make time to celebrate your success once the event is over.

Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editorial director of Associations Now. More »

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