23 November 2018

STAKEHOLDERS – one of the biggest risks of live events, large or small, with multiple stakeholders is… the multiple stakeholders. A risk frequently overlooked and often seen as a non-issue, only for it to become ’the’ issue. Unlike hiring an agency or supplier, the looser arrangements typically used to engage stakeholders, coupled with inevitable changing requirements, a fixed deadline and having everyone watching, creates unique pressures that can erode enthusiasm, leaving you exposed. Contracts and agreements are not the answer, they are just the start. 5 minutes of video to help…


Hi, I’m Will Glendinning, I’m a live event producer, director and designer.

Now whether it’s a sports event, arts festival, public event a major conference or summit or such like, you’re going to be reliant on multiple stakeholders and whether you like it or not, you may or may not have complete control over them. Key stakeholders could be internal departments, local authorities, media partners, community groups, a board or senior officials, anyone your live event simply wouldn’t be possible without.

If your live event is new to any stakeholders, or if it’s in a new location or a one off, one of the main risks of multiple stakeholder events is making sure these key stakeholders can and will actually deliver. It still amazes me how often this risk is left wide open and, frequently, unknowingly. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’m told stakeholder delivery is a non-issue or low risk, for it to then prove to be the issue.

If you appoint an agency or supplier to help deliver your live event, you or your team will probably apply considerable due diligence before appointing them. What can they deliver? How will they deliver? What expertise and experience do they have? How much will it cost? You know, important questions. Do you apply this same level of due diligence though to all stakeholders? Stakeholders you’re just as reliant on as any supplier or any agency.

Some key stakeholders are typically involved because they want to support you, they are the enthusiastic ones. Some are obliged to support you making them more generally apathetic ones. And some have been told to support you, they’re typically more reluctant stakeholders.

Given you have these stakeholders supporting you though, which probably involved a great deal of leg work, diplomacy and good will in the first place, why risk rocking the boat by asking too many questions? I often get told not to worry, because key stakeholders are experts in their fields, or someone somewhere has developed a lovely list of roles and responsibilities detailing what all these stakeholders will do. Leading everyone involved to believe everything’s fine. Two points there.

Firstly, a person or organisation who’s an expert in their field in normal circumstances can rapidly fall to pieces when working on a live event. With goal posts constantly moving, having an absolutely fixed deadline and with everyone watching; all of which can play havoc with logic, egos and the emotions of those involved; unless that is they have comparable experience.

Secondly at the outset of a live events development, roles and responsibilities are, at best, ambiguous, given how much will change and the detail yet to be explored. And perhaps more importantly, and more commonly, an owner or leader promising the goods, services and support of their organisation is very different to those in the organisation actually being able to deliver. You need to apply the same due diligence to all stakeholders just as you would any supplier or to any agency.

Now these stakeholders are here to help you, they want to support you. So you don’t want to antagonise them, you just need to have some empathy and want to support them. For each stakeholder, check their capability to do what will likely be needed. Have they the capacity to deliver? Have they directly comparable experience of having delivered similar under the similar pressures a live event will present? And, if applicable, what will it cost you in time, money or other compensation? Then, for each type of stakeholder, be aware of the following too:

Firstly, the enthusiastic ones: Ironically these are often the riskiest stakeholders. Many people are often super excited about being involved at the outset of a shiny new event. Enthusiasm, positivity and supportive endorsements or rhetoric can mask or skew reality though. Enthusiasm does not equal capability, capacity or expertise.

Secondly, the apathetic ones: These are usually the easiest stakeholders to manage and will normally be the stakeholders who’ve seen and done it all before. Just check though that they’ll be doing what you actually want them to do, rather than what they think you want.

Finally, the reluctant ones: These are the stakeholders who’ve been crowbarred into your event or volunteered to help, and they need your most empathetic support. Find out what they’re most concerned about and what they are not telling you. Until you know this, you’re exposed and at risk. Any reluctance will not reduce as your events development progress, it will only escalate.

Once you’ve done all that, you’ll have a far clearer version of reality than any roles and responsibility analysis will ever give you. And once you’ve done that, you need to assume that every stakeholder may fail and hope they don’t rather than vice versa. And then you, your team, an external agency if you’re outsourcing things, or potentially additional stakeholders, can fill the gaps that look like they exist, support stakeholders where comparable experience, expertise or provision is lacking, or put in place contingency plans if needed.

This is the surest way to make sure you don’t end up in a mess as everything that were enthusiastically promised gradually evaporates as that enthusiasm wavers. And perhaps, more importantly, the clarity this brings you you’ll get more sleep too, which is important.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful.

If you’ve got any questions just drop me a line and I’ll speak to you again soon.