A few years ago, I was on-site to support a client event. It was a free outdoor weekend event (Saturday & Sunday).
In the days preceding the event, all the event infrastructure was being set up. Crowd fences, tents, tables, chairs, vendor booths, etc.
On Friday, the night before the weekend event, the client decided to have a free community outreach gathering. The Friday night event included live music, a performer meet and greet, and food vendors. A few thousand people showed up to the Friday night event.
Going into their event, the client had sold out all their Saturday VIP tickets. Most of the ticket revenue was deposited in the client's bank account (minus the standard ticketing revenue hold) and attendees full of excitement.
It was nearly the ideal scenario, minus one essential item.
When I arrived at the client's event on Friday, I had asked multiple times to walk through the VIP area. The person responsible for VIP and chalet setup wasn't able to accommodate my request.
When I politely insisted, the client's operations manager said, "Eugene we're really busy with our Friday night event, we can't get you over to that area right now." Then, I asked if I could go to the VIP area on my own, the answer was a curt, "no, not without an escort."
In the end, I wasn't able to walk through the VIP area. Fast forward to Saturday morning and the event gates were about to open.
Because my event access badges never made it to me, I diplomatically made my way to the VIP area. On the way to the VIP area, I ran into the event operations manager. They appeared to be really anxious. To which I inquired, "Is everything ok?"
Their response, "not really, none of the VIP areas are ready."
My response, "Ok, what do you mean by not ready?"
The operations managers said, "Only the tents are set up. No tables, chairs, linens, drink stations, or catering. Because we were so busy yesterday, nothing was set up."
I distinctly remember the operations manager's statement from above and looking down at the time on my cell phone. The time was 08:09 and the VIP area was to open at 09:00 sharp. T-minus 51 minutes until "go time!"
(And in case you're wondering ... emphasis on the VIP area setup had been broached multiple times during client prep calls. In one instance, the client became annoyed at my constantly bringing readiness up.)
Thankfully, there were a handful of volunteers who swooped in to the rescue. Hundreds of chairs and dozens of tables were set up in less than 50 minutes. In spite of the incredible volunteer effort, the VIP experience wasn't fully set up until Sunday. Things like catering stations were set up late on Saturday and the open bar, opened elsewhere (not in the VIP tent, as planned).
In the post-event feedback, patrons were rightfully upset. To paraphrase the consensus of many Saturday VIP ticket holders, "I paid for a VIP experience and didn't receive what I paid for. You weren't even ready!"
The unfortunate irony of the story above is that I've seen a failure to execute in multiple instances across numerous events. As a result event attendees are left with a bad experience and some decide to never return.
Please don't fall into the same trap. Make sure that your event is ready to go, well in advance of event attendees showing up! Else, you subject your event to the "three-year recovery."
Here are a few more VIP ticketing insights: