One of the things I believe Solution Tree Events does well is, well, everything. Seriously. We have all heard the phrase “The devil is in the details.” So I will announce to you that our Events Team is “Devil Slayers”. This point was made clear to me at a resent three day event we held at the Marriott in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in which we had no say in the details.
First a little background. In Saudi we have some inherent complications that we do not have in the State.
- Translation. All of the attendees, and the presenter, are wearing headphones to understand each other. The translator sits in a booth in the back of the room.
- Visuals: There needs to be two different screens, projector and two different computers so that you can display the presentation in Arabic and in English. The presenter needs to see the English.
- Staffing: We need someone to change slides on the Arabic computer to keep in sync with the presenter’s slides.
- Gender: Women cannot be in the same room as men. They are in a room next door, so besides the two content screens (one in English for our female co-presenter) there is a third for the video link of the presenter.
So now add in some site-specific complications.
- The facility we were in only provides the sound.
- A film company only does filming to project into the other room.
- Our host has a film crew recording for their purposes.
- Everyone feels as thought their role is most important
- There is no on-site project director from hotel or host.
- English is nobody’s primary language, besides the presenter’s.
So to my point about Solution Tree Events being devil slayers. In 2014 we hosted 27 Summits/Institutes giving us around 90 keynotes and somewhere around 550 breakout sessions. That is 640 different sessions that all need projection, sound for computers, materials distributed, projecting our presenter on one to three screens, and audio for every presenter in each of the 640 sessions. Then throw in the 25 workshops hosted around the country and we are talking details.
I can say with the exception, each and every event session this past year came off without a hitch. Now our team may have been the proverbial l duck, smooth on the surface paddling like crazy below, but all inevitable problems were fixed before presentations began. Meaning all presenters and attendees had a technologically unencumbered event. Our staff, and the contractors in which we hire and oversee, are ROCK STARS when it comes to event execution. Unparalleled!
In Saudi we had subcontractors changing from day to day, audio squawks and shutdowns, headset malfunction, cameras unplugged during presentation by camera men, video projection one day but not the next, then back the third, projection quality dramatically different from hour to hour, cameramen more interested in texting then tracking, etc. So imagine the frustration of the presenter and the attendees who were having a hard enough time with translations and brand new concepts. Then throw in my attitude and temperament…my Christmas Card list did not expand.
Saving grace was our lead presenter Dr. Tom Many who has the patience of a SAINT. He changed directions, adlibbed , and modified to engage attendees. All this without being able to add or change slides. Translations were already done. Also, the attendees were fantastic. They were very engaged in the content and Tom’s delivery, and very gracious with not displaying their frustrations with the technology. Specifically the women who had to endure more issues than the men…but we all know they are basically more patient and tolerant than men.
The devil is indeed in the details. If the experience is hampered by poor technology, the event suffers dramatically and the experience is not what it should or could be. If the technology is flawless, the attendees don’t notice and they focus on the content. But we know, and more importantly the presenters know, when execution by the hosting organization sucks. If we can perform our jobs well, nobody should notice and all the presenter’s hard work of preparation and planning culminates in a truly positive experience for everyone. And that is why we do what we do.