21 April 2020

Episode 3 of: The Facts of Live – The Series, In The Beginning.

This episode covers: the tipping point, 100 different ways of starting a live event or exhibition off – and why 100 ways is bad, the obstacles in the way of the best way and the value of content and context experience, at the right time, to reduce risk and create more impact.


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

In the first episode of this series we looked at how to make sure a live event or an exhibition or anything live has some value and some worth, and in the second episode we looked at how to best structure it to actually create and deliver that value. In this third episode, we’re looking at how things begin. How to begin them. And how not to! If you want to create the most value with a live event or anything live, this video is about how to get started, now armed of course, with the relevant background information.

Whether you’re in the sports, arts, entertainment, marketing communication, government or the not-for-profit business, creating the most value and most impact with a live event starts right at the beginning, at its genesis, with the foundations that underpin it and key principles. Or as I decided to call them: “The Facts Of Live”, the name of the book and this free video series.

The decisions made, whether qualified or not, at the genesis of a live event, tend to have a far greater impact on that live event than decisions made by you or anyone else you bring on board further down the live. In the beginning, there is just an idea, this is the genesis of a live event, and at this point, there is a key moment I call the Tipping Point. This 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, the moment an artist decides they want to go on tour, the moment a government decides it wants to bid for the rights to host a major event, the moment a group of people decide they want to organise a political demonstration or the moment when a brand or country starts considering creating a pavilion for a major event or an expo.

Typically, the decisions made in the seconds, and I mean seconds, or moments after the tipping point, can set a live event, or an exhibition or a pavilion down a path that is almost irreversible, irrespective whether it’s actually the best path or not. Quite often, it’s not the best path.

Through nothing other than a lack of understanding, unlike other sectors or disciplines such as marketing, or architecture, or medicine or law for example, there’s just no common ground widely understood when it comes to live events.

If I ask 100 people how they’d go about getting a building designed and built at the point they decided they wanted one, the tipping point, I’d get 100 similar answers. If I asked 100 people how they’d go about getting a live event or an exhibition or a pavilion designed and delivered, and the choices they’d make at that tipping point, I’d get 100 different answers. I know this as I hear them most days!

People generally know they need a doctor if they are ill, or a cook if they are hungry, or a lawyer for legal advice or an architect if they need a building designed and they know, broadly how to go about getting them, yet when it comes to live events, most people either do what they’ve always done, rely on hearsay or invent their own processes, meaning, results will vary, and not always in a good way.

With there being no common understanding or accepted path forwards, this makes this tipping point the most critical, most riskiest and potentially the most expensive part of any live event’s life cycle. In the beginning, right at this tipping point, you need two things and two things only other than the idea itself, relevant content and contextual experience on hand to guide and to catch the idea and set it on the right path.

Skip back to episode two if you’d like, for a review on what content and context are, but in summary, the content of an event is everything people see or do and the context is everything involved in delivering that content.

You wouldn’t start the design of a building until an architect was on board, or fighting a legal case without a lawyer or seek surgery without first talking to a doctor, you’d seek relevant experience. Yet so many people, brands and organisations attempt to set about conceiving, creating, procuring or producing live events without relevant expertise.

Often, in my view because it’s not seen as a recognisable skill or craft in its own right like other sectors or disciplines, and as we looked at in the last episode, it’s clearly a specialist craft, or discipline. The result of this lack of awareness is that people and organisations can simply make up what they think is best. Sometimes this works, but those instances are extremely rare. Why take the risk?

Many organisation’s procurement and governance guidelines, or practices can often hinder getting the right content and context experience at the right time. Typically, because the relevant talent is not in house or there’s no budget to pay for it. It is extremely common, and almost seen as normal, for an organisation to want to know the cost of any live event before engaging anyone to start working on it in any way.

At one level, this logic is understandable: as a client, you want to buy or start something and want to know what it will cost so you can contract or start it without exposing yourself to any risk, and so, a traditional tender or RFP is often issued looking for a turnkey solution. This is a flawed approach. What you’re effectively doing here is asking people for a picture of an event or a design and detailed costs, yet to work that out they need to do most of the work to design and develop it in order to then develop a budget, to win the right to have the opportunity to start designing and developing it. It’s a common, yet insane paradox!

Add to this, the fact that, and I don’t care what anyone else says, but unless you’re looking for a formulaic event, there is no way on earth anyone can know the cost of an event before design, planning and development is well progressed, long past any procurement process. Ideas can be developed, and budgets can be estimated in far easier and more robust ways than with a full-blown formal process that usually does the exact opposite of finding you the best value, ideas and solutions. You just need relevant content and contextual experience.

I know I sound like a scratched record, but without it, you’ve got little chance of more creativity, or creating more value and impact. Without it, you’ll be wasting your own and other peoples’ time, money and effort. Live events, exhibitions and pavilions, in fact anything live, if they’re worth doing, they’re worth doing properly.

The repercussions of the tiny decisions made at the tipping point, be they good or bad, become amplified as time progresses and it’s extremely difficult to reset them in any practical sense. The right content and contextual advice therefore have considerably more value at the beginning of this process than when such expertise is more typically brought on board, long after the tipping point.

That value is in reducing financial, practical or reputational risks, as those with the right experience will know what’s coming, no need for endless meetings or committees to try and work it out.

That value is also in knowing what things will and won’t cost, or what will be required, or the broad direction of travel. They will know what’s going to come out of the woodwork, they have that sixth sense.

That value is in knowing what structure will best create or deliver more creativity and more impact.

That value, if it is the right experience, will also be able to lead or guide any procurement efforts in a way that actually finds you the best value and solutions, which most event procurement does not. The procurement side of things we’re going to look at in a later episode. Robust, proven procurement practices that work, at any level or scale, and get you what you need when you need it.

In the meantime though, at the very least, make sure you keep everything as open and as flexible as possible in these beginning stages, at the tipping point.

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

As I said, this tipping point is the most critical, the riskiest and most expensive part of any live event’s lifecycle. It’s why I wrote the book, it’s why I’m doing this free video series and it’s why I’m happy to answer any questions.

Don’t mess this stage up

In this video series so far, we’ve looked at the value of a live event or an exhibition, how they are best structured and the importance of getting them started in the right way.

In the next episode we’ll be looking at how they’re driven forwards through the myriad of challenges, we’ll be looking at leadership. Live event leadership starts and ends with empathy. It is everything.

Thanks for your time, thanks for watching and I’ll see you in that next episode.