Sunday, July 5, 2009

We were robbed!

Last month we were running an event in Sydney and, after confirming with the venue that the exits were secured, headed off to lunch. On our return I was dismayed to find that my briefcase (containing about $10,000 worth of equipment including a new laptop) had been stolen as the venue staff had forgotten to lock the fire exit. It was a bit of a disaster as we lost quite a lot of data (I'm now a convert to the practice of religiously doing backups!). A couple of days later I related the story to a fellow delegate at the IMEX conference in Frankfurt who said that would have been preferrable to her last event where the keynote speaker died (of natural causes) at the venue the morning of the conference. Wow ... I'd prefer a theft of all the laptops to something like that!However, it make me think that there are probably quite a lot of funny, weird and wonderful stories about the various disasters that happen at events sitting out there just waiting to be told. If you'd like to share your story please use the comments section below to tell us your story.


  1. My first conference was one I will never forget and most of the lessons I learned came from that unmitigated disaster. It's a classic risk management study....

    The conference was at a destination in Asia. I spiked a fever on the plane and was so ill by the time I arrived I just wanted to lie down and die peacefully. Unfortunately in those days bribes were a custom and I thought I had paid all the necessary ones. I was mistaken. In customs I endured three hours of questioning, I even produced the list of those bribes I had already paid (fever talking..), eventually it seeped into my brain that more money was required. After handing over another US$200 I was in a taxi, heading for the hotel in 10 minutes. The doctor made me point to the place on a doll where it hurt and covered his eyes when he examined me but he did give me medication and told me to stay out of the sun, stay away from alcohol and get lots of sleep, clearly he had never run a conference...

    The beautiful beachside bungalows advertised in our brochure turned out not be a real indication of the rooms available. For the first day of the conference jeeps containing our delegates would go out and come right back, full of angry, unhappy people. Meanwhile one of our two planes had quite literally gone missing over the ocean. Even the airline couldn't tell me where it was and since half of them had partners on that plane, the mood of the delegates shifted move hysterical to morose. Happily 24 hours later we found out it had been rerouted and everyone was safe but it would be another 12 hours before they arrived, meaning the program had to be completely changed around to take out an entire day, on site.

    Thinking most of my problems were now over, I sailed down the stairs to meet the delegates for breakfast and apoligies, somewhat medicated, and broke my leg...back to pointing at the doll and some nice pain relief medication on top of what I was already taking.

    At the welcome cocktail function our President apologised profusely to do the delegates for the problems with the hotel, not realising the audio system went through the entire resort. One our into the official program, the resort staff went on strike because of his comments and the food and alcohol promptly stopped. Another public apology, this time to the hotel staff...

    There's no point detailing everything else that went wrong at that conference, but believe me it's all still crystal clear in my mind. Suffice it to say that on the last night I had had more than enough and let loose...yes I had forgotten the no alcohol rule that came with the medications.

    I'm sure it wasn't pretty the next day and equally sure that my punishment was 200 or so delegates were held in the aiport for 14 hours because a pilot turned left on the runway instead of right and 380 people lost their lives right in front of us.

    On returning home to see my real Doctor's horrified look when I showed him the medications I'd been given (and had been taking for 10 days) I realised that every little problem at an event after this would pale into insignificant nonsense.

    The loss of data is horrible, but I'll see your laptop and raise you the worst conference in history...but we all still talk about it when we are together again...

  2. I was running a session on Platform Mechanics for a group of fairly new professional speakers, and shared with them that often our biggest mistakes are our greatest learnings, and I shared the example of my ex business partner who - when presentingt - would prepare literally dozens of slides (as they were in those days) and go through EVERY ONE OF THEM, by which time the audience was usually asleep. One day he was walking up the steps to the stage with his pile of goodies when he tripped and dropped the lot. He stood in silence for a couple of minutes and then picked up ONE slide, and gave his best presentation ever.

    Someone in the audience also told the tale of how a very glamourous female speaker had just started her 45 minute keynote when she sneezed - the zip on her skirt snapped and her skirt slipped down around her feet! Fortunately she had a very pretty slip on! Ann Andrews

  3. Several years ago the Surface and Colloid Sciences held their international conference in Adelaide. Being an extremely specialised area the delegate numbers were not expected to be high, but the attendees were all experts in their particular field. the conference was to open on the Saturday night with the opening speaker considered to the world authority. Sadly on the Friday night he had a heart attack and died. Not only was this sadness felt by all in attendance as he was highly regarded, but his wife who was accompanying him had to arrange for his body to be flown home to Canada. Fortunely in this diverse industry even funeral directors are clients, and this request was met with dignity and efficiency. The conference organiser had more than a dilemma though replacing this esteemed person with less than a day to do so. Such is the professionalism and versatility of our industry!

  4. My story is nothing like the one's we've already read in this blog but I had to share. just a short lesson.

    In my youth, the first conference I went to overseas was in Washington DC, and to say I was excited was an understatement. Any way the first night was a cocktail party and I had a ball, socialising, meeting, chatting, networking and learning - absolutely wonderful until about 2pm in the morning when I realised I was totally smashed and I wasn't going to recover quickly. The next day I was so totally hungover that I missed most of the conference. And when the conference only lasts two days and you've missed one of them - what a waste!

    The lesson I learnt - make sure you are completely on form to get the best out of your investment!


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