From Where I Sit – It Takes an Army

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at a big event? I mean a big event in places like the Shaw Conference Centre in downtown Edmonton or the Telus Centre in Calgary or a big hotel ballroom. I mean a convention or annual general meeting. I mean hundreds of delegates or guests.

I now have a very good idea. My daughter and her friend just organized their first event under the auspices of their own company. Luckily, they’ve been doing this as their day job as fundraisers for the past few years. They have the credibility, connections, time management skills, experience, and chutzpah this job requires. Oh, and nerves of steel.

This first event was for roughly 900 people at the Shaw Conference Centre. After pitching the idea from concept to timeline to budget, their new firm was selected to pull it off. A series of meetings with the organizing committee for this staff appreciation function followed. A delicate balance of staying true to the vision and watching the nickels and dimes is key. Accommodating the client’s wishes and objectives drives the process.

These young women are off to a great start, with incorporation papers drawn up by a lawyer spelling out roles, responsibilities, contingency plans for dissolution, and countless other things that don’t matter until they matter.

Of course, as mom, I’ve been encouraging, offering advice, brainstorming, and praying since this was merely a dream. It was only natural that I would be there on the big day to help in any way possible.

I worked for hours on the mind-numbing job of arranging nearly 900 place cards on roughly 90 tables. At one point I offered to pull cables if only the lighting guys would switch with me. They were too smart to take the bait and were finished with their part long before I was.

I know that a well orchestrated, beautifully organized, memorable event does not happen by accident. It takes an army. The Shaw people who set up the tables and chairs, set the place settings with precision, prepare and serve the three-course meal. (How do those young people carry ten main courses on a tray on their shoulders across the conference room without incident?) Or the audiovisual company with sound technicians, camera men, and editing guy responsible for cueing the music and images down to the second. Or the lighting people who create the magic ambience and make sure the spotlight is on the right person at the right time.

Bartenders and the people driving the motorized vacuum cleaner or cleaning the washrooms are often invisible unless you look for them. Throw in a couple of mimes, two actors, some paparazzi and you’ve got an event. And, of course, Hilary and Cecilia to oversee it all.

As for mom, I was nervously watching everything unfold, hoping against hope that this first big thing would be a success, that both client and guests would be happy, that no tragedy would befall. Getting the feeling back in my legs and feet was just a bonus, from where I sit.