An excerpt from Meetings Mayhem! - A humorous but factual look at the serious business of making meetings happen
This is one of those stories where I can look back now and laugh at it, but at the time it was happening, I felt that knot in the pit of my stomach feeling, and just wanted to crawl under a rock.
I worked in event management for a hotel company for 11 years. It was a luxury property, one of those where the people constantly fluff the pillows in the lobby and has the luxurious scent of grapefruit and lavender pumping through the air vents. I was proud to work there and proud to follow the rules and standards that were in place, designed to keep the property operating in tip-top condition.
Now that the scene has been set, let me take you back to the night I thought I had squandered my perfect event record and wanted to crawl under a rock. It was the final night of a 3-day extravaganza. Yes, extravaganza. Calling this event anything less than, would not do it justice. It was a real spectacle, thousands of professionals under one roof, being wined and dined and completely submerged into the experience. Every moment of the event was #Instagramable and unforgettable… including the final night.
At the request of my amazing client, I had hesitantly agreed, last minute, for her staff to put together a “confetti departure” for the attendees. I use the word “hesitant” because if you are in the hotel side of things, you rarely agree to anything with confetti because the clean-up is usually a nightmare.
Under normal circumstances I would have needed to run this past the big boss, however, I agreed and without question, because I simply wanted to make my client happy. If this confetti departure, in her eyes would be the icing on the cake, then I figured, what is a few minutes of clean-up in the grand scheme of things? After all, she was a repeat client, and I didn’t want to say NO to something that could be trivial and sour the relationship with the property. We pick our battles and offer flexibility when justified.
Little did I know that in actuality what I had agreed to was over 2,000 individual handheld confetti canons, each stuffed with hundreds of colorful pieces of confetti. See, in my mind what I was expecting was equivalent to one stage-style confetti canon, The “one blast”, and you’re done kind of thing, no big deal.
No, this was quite the opposite…
"This confetti departure, or as I refer to it now as the confetti parade, went on for the longest hour of my career with the constant popping of confetti floating in the air."
This confetti departure, or as I refer to it now as the confetti parade, went on for the longest hour of my career with the constant popping of confetti floating in the air. I stood back from a distance, watching as the floors in the convention center foyer became coated, and the chandeliers now bedazzled with rainbow-colored confetti. There were confetti pieces in the window treatments, the crown molding, all the hard to reach places! There was so much confetti, I recall it got to about 6 inches thick, like snow. And like snow, when you walk through it, it travels with you…
My heart started to pound out of my chest. A few things ran through my mind.
How was I going to clean this up? It is late and almost everyone has gone home already.
How are my bosses going to take this? Am I going to get coached?
Was it worth it?
Then as the last few people trickled out, and that one guy finished doing snow-angels, I looked around and saw my client in the distance with the biggest smile on her face.
Suddenly, my anxiety levels were lower, and I felt a wave of calmness come over me. At that moment I realized it did not matter how I was going to clean it up or explain to my boss why we were still finding pieces of confetti weeks later in the once immaculate conference center. What mattered is that smile in the distance.
I pride myself on following the rules but at the same time, knowing when to bend them. It took a few volunteers (me begging friends to stay later), a case of Red Bull energy drinks, and a little over four hours to clean the mess. But this time I am glad I bent the rules as it meant creating lasting memories not just for my client, but for the thousands of conference attendees that became raving fans after this experience.
Fun fact, the best tool we found for piling up the confetti were several rubber squeegee brooms from the dish room.
The next morning, I came clean to my bosses about what transpired the night before. They laughed and surprisingly to them, it was not a big deal after all, or perhaps I’m now just explaining for the first time the gravity of the situation...
At any rate, it’s times like these that I’m reminded why we empower our teams in the first place, so they can, without doubt, make a decision and stick with it, even if it means going against the grain. Next time, I’ll be sure to ask for specifics on the canons before committing, but the more important lesson here is I’m glad I went with my gut because, in the end, it was all worth it.
Confetti for Days is from a collection of stories published in Meetings Mayhem! by Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP. To learn more about the book and and to follow more of Terry's amusing detours, visit Terry at terrysworldtravels.com.