“We can fill multiple books with ours, but it’s nice to know we are not alone,” Andrea Michaels, president of Extraordinary Events, told me after reading the first installment of “Meetings Horror Stories” in the June 2019 issue of Meetings Today.
In this second round, people in the meetings and events industry dished out horror stories that involved speakers and entertainers at their event.
When the Cops Show Up
Kathy Walters is the manager of scheduling and systems at Purdue Memorial Union Hospitality Services, but was in the role of senior conference coordinator at the time of her horror story. She shared the juicy details of an arrest at her event.
We had a four-day-long conference and were getting ready to end it with the final speaker in a more than 1,000-person auditorium.
I was in my office talking to a staff member when two police officers came in and asked to speak with the conference organizers.
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I took them to see my chairperson in another room.
The police officers proceeded to ask where a certain attendee was and said that they had a warrant for his arrest. The person ended up being our last speaker and was just going on stage.
I escorted the police officers along with my chairperson to the backstage area where they agreed to wait for him to finish his talk.
As soon as the speaker walked off the stage, the officers approached him, read him his rights and took him away in handcuffs out the back door of the auditorium.
My chairperson had to arrange to have the speaker’s hotel room packed up and had his luggage shipped back to New York. It seems he was in the middle of a terrible divorce proceeding and had skipped out on some appearances. His ex-wife knew he would be speaking at the conference and sent the local authorities after him. What a day!
The Magician Is Always Right
Sandy Biback is retired, but her company was Imagination + Meeting Planners when the event occurred. She told us of her experience when the magician’s rules weren’t followed.
The event was an association’s 100th birthday and I hired a magician to make the president of the board “appear” on stage.
We received two strict rules from the magician: No use of perfume or hairspray, and because there was pyrotechnics being used, the fire alarms were to be shut off in the room and a firefighter was to be onsite—just in case.
Well, the president agreed to the first set of rules but she didn’t want to pay for this extra safety precaution of having a firefighter onsite. We convinced her it was the law (which it was), so she finally agreed, and we thought we were good to go.
And then—ta-da!—”The Big Reveal.”
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At the last minute the president decided she needed her perfume and her hairspray. Five minutes before the reveal, the magician refused to perform because of safety reasons.
The president had to simply walk on the stage. At the end, she didn’t want to pay the magician because he didn’t follow through. However, he ultimately got paid.
Vanity took precedence over the big reveal.
A Celebrity Backup
A speaker who declined to be identified shared with us what happened when he almost had to pull double duty.
I was the speaker at an event in Washington, D.C., for a high-powered association, on “how to influence decision makers.”
In the middle of my presentation the meeting planner approached me, interrupted the session and asked if I would be available to give the luncheon speech as well.
Their celebrity speaker, a major newscaster with a weekly late-night program, had confused the date of his appearance and was vacationing in New Hampshire with his family.
I confirmed my willingness to fill in for him, finished my session and was then told that the corporate jet was sent to retrieve him, and in the end, he would make it after all. In this case, a confirming check-in with the celebrity would have anticipated and prevented the problem.
Do you have any meetings horror stories to share? Contact Kate Cripe. Your story could make it into a future issue of Meetings Today and/or be featured on the website.