17 August 2019

THE TIPPING POINT – the riskiest, most expensive and most critical point of any event, exhibition or pavilion’s life cycle. Yet rarely discussed. Do you know what the tipping point is, what to do at it or how the choices made at the tipping point can have a far greater influence on the cost, value, creativity, risk or impact of any live event than the decisions anyone makes further down the line? 4 minutes of video to explain and help…


Hi, I’m Will Glendinning, I’m a live event Producer, Designer and Director.

And I’d like to talk about something that hardly ever gets discussed, but has a far bigger impact on a live event, or on an exhibition or on a pavilion, than almost anything else. It’s something I call the ‘tipping point’.

The tipping point is the few seconds or maybe few minutes after a live event, exhibition or pavilion tips from being unspoken about or largely theoretical to something that needs consideration.

For example, the moment a new product launch, first gets considered or the moment an artist decides, they want to go on tour or the moment a government decides it wants to bid for the rights to host a major event or the moment a group of people decide they want to organise a political demonstration or the moment a country starts considering, creating a pavilion for a major event or an expo.

Typically, the decisions that get made in the seconds, and I mean literally seconds, the moments after this tipping point, set an event or an exhibition or a pavilion down a path that becomes almost irreversible, irrespective of whether it’s actually, the best path forwards. And quite often, it isn’t the best path.

Not through anyone’s fault as such, but unlike other disciplines or sectors, architecture, law, medicine or many others, there are no core principles or common ground widely understood, when it comes to live events.

If I asked 100 people how they’d go about, getting a building designed and developed and delivered, once they knew they wanted one, the tipping point, I’d get a 100 similar answers. If I asked 100 people how they’d go about, getting an event or an exhibition or pavilion designed, built and delivered, after they knew that they wanted one, at the tipping point, I’d get 100 different answers.

People generally know they need a doctor if they’re ill or a cook if they’re hungry or a lawyer for legal advice or an architect if they need a building designed, yet when it comes to live events, most people either, do what they’ve always done, rely on hearsay or invent their own processes. Results will of course vary. There’s just no common understanding or accepted path forwards, which makes the tipping point, the most critical, the riskiest and potentially the most costliest part, in the entire live event’s life cycle.

You need, however briefly, the relevant content and contextual experience on hand to guide the idea at the tipping point and set it on the right path. Content experience being experience or knowledge with the message, purpose or idea of the event. The subject or message at a conference, for example, the music at a concert or the athletes equipment and regulations at a sporting event. Contextual experience is everything required to bring that content to life. Experience with similar sized budgets, risks, venues and locations, marketing, politics, logistics, technology, infrastructure and everything similar.

Making the right decisions at the tipping point, is a huge subject with many great nuances and devilish details. But in brief, keep everything as open and flexible as possible at the tipping point.

Don’t let marketing, procurement, finance, risk management, branding, politics, egos or anyone or anything else steer the idea, down any particular path until you have both, relevant content and contextual experience, on board or to hand.

There can be a temptation to form a committee, or working group or similar to work out the best way forwards. These may be full of well-intentioned and intelligent people, but such exercises, should only begin, after there is some initial content and contextual experience on hand, as anything you’re trying to do or any idea you have, would have been done in some way, shape or form previously. Any committee or working group might therefore, only be adding more time, cost, complexity or risk.

The decisions you make at the tipping point, can have a far greater impact, than the decisions anyone else makes further down the line because it’s at this point, you’re at the thin edge of the wedge. Any decisions, good or bad will merely get amplified and it’s extremely difficult to reset them, in any practical sense.

Get this approach right, or recognise the tipping point even exists, at least and you’ll go a long way to saving time, money and effort, reducing financial, practical and reputational risks and increasing the value and impact of your event, exhibition or pavilion.

Again, I realise this is a big, complicated and involved subject, but I hope this, at least, has being a useful starting point.

Any questions, just let me know. Thanks for your time and I’ll speak to you again soon.