The egomaniac's guide to event failure

Fasten your seatbelts, because things are going to get blunt!

Event organizers get themselves in HUGE trouble because they're subjective in how they plan and execute their events.

According to Princeton University's WordNet definition, a subjective person uses "judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts." Mix in a subjective event organizer mindset with some ego, and you have the perfect mix for disaster.

Trust me, it's not pretty, and I've seen many utterly avoidable event catastrophes, all a result of people being stupidly subjective.

Here's the typical scenario . . . An event organizer becomes hell-bent on running an event THEIR way (also known as Captain Ahab Syndrome). The end result is that the event organizer adopts a mindset of knowing better than their own event attendees. And that "I know better" will get your event a fast pass to failure.

It doesn't matter how noble or great YOU think your event is if people don't share those same beliefs – or worst, don't care – your event will flop, GUARANTEED!

Event organizers (of the subjective type) empathically state, "It's my event, and I'll run it as I please." That is true, but it's not worth trying to reason them.

My only question is, "What happens when your event crashes and burns?" Usually, it's someone else's fault, and it turns into a finger pointing contest. Even worse is the following event organizer statement (which I've had said to me by a frustrated event organizer), "People who didn't show up to our event don't know what they're missing ... they're idiots!"

Any event organizer who considers those that didn't attend their event in such poor regard is a dolt! People didn't attend because the egomaniac event organizer failed to give the consumer a compelling reason to attend.

Fear not, there is hope! Here is what you can do to prevent yourself from falling into the subjective mindset trap . . . be objective about all aspects of your event!

Being objective focus on facts, not feelings! A well thought out event survey (or pre even survey) is massively beneficial in keeping your event planning and promotions objective. The caveat is that you have to truly embrace the survey results. One of the single best event survey questions to ask your event attendees is "what DIDN'T you like about the event?"

Yet, when I propose the "what didn't you like about the event" survey question to organizers, they get upset and refuse to use it. They believe if you ask a seemingly negative question, their event will be cast in a bad light. I'd argue they don't ask the questions because their ego can't handle the feedback.

The truth is if you ask the question from above, you're going to have to put on some ego armor. BUT, if you integrate the negative attendee feedback, you're left which a significantly more marketable event. Some might ask, "why not ask what people liked about my event?"

Because if you only focus on the positive and don't correct the negative, you'll never improve your event. When you do ask the "negative" question, you'll find people are unbelievably cordial and appreciative with their feedback.

The "what didn't you like" question comes from Dave Pietrowski at the World's Largest Disco in Buffalo, New York. The Disco is a 25-year event that is "SOLD OUT!" numerous times before a single person walked in the front door.

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The Consequence of a $5 Ticket Decision

Have you ever contemplated having your event take a hiatus?

There are times when not having an event is an unfortunate necessity. If you're not going to have your event, please consider some of the potential consequences.

About six years ago, a client had to make the decision to either raise their gate price to cover unexpected costs or not have their event. Because the client had very accurate attendance figures, we did some financial forecasting. A $5 USD price increase, per ticket, would cover all their additional expenses and increase profits. The event organizer insisted that the consumer wouldn't tolerate such a ticket price increase.

My recommendation was to test the $5 ticket price increase. Their customers absolutely raved about the client's event. Ultimately, the client decided not to have their event.

At the time, I strongly disagreed with the client's decision and fought hard for the price increase. That said, it's their event and their butt on the line. Not mine!

Before that, numerous competitors refused to enter the same event marketplace. It was probably out of fear and respect. That left the client with nearly zero competition for their event.

What was once a consistent annual event, was no more. And the competition pounced!

Within a year, there were at least three similar events. Instead of one marquee event, the public now had multiple choices.

A few years later, the client decided to bring back their event. Whatever dominance they had established had been diluted with all the competition. They also raised their price $5 USD, with little to no blowback.

To be fair, I can't say that competition would not have entered into the marketplace. But, nobody can deny the dominance of being first to a given market.

In the book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout, it is stated: "the leading brand in any category is almost always the first brand into the prospect's mind. e.g., Hertz in rent-a-cars, IBM in computers, Coca-Cola in cola." With rare exception, the same adage applies to the event industry.

If you have domination in your event niche, not having your event could have dire consequences. Please carefully pro and con your choice. Most important of all, don't let your personal bias get in the way.

Want to get more event ticketing advice? Check out the articles below:

"How do I get more volunteers for my event?"

OA asks an important question, "How do I get more volunteers for my event?"

Without volunteers, some events wouldn't happen. This is especially true with clients who are not-for-profit organizations.

Let's start with answering OA's question. Stay tuned, because there is a quintessential secondary point!

The best place to get volunteers for your event is by going back to previous event attendees. You should have an email list of previous customers. Clients have sent a well-crafted email to previous event attendees and received all the volunteers they needed (with a catch – secondary point*).

A social media suggestion ...

You can also use, boosted (paid) Facebook posts to find volunteers. But your audience targeting methodology and post message needs to be spot on. Furthermore, if you're thinking of posting to Facebook without boosting your posts, don't waste your time! "Because as of June 2016, the Organic Reach of a Facebook Page had fallen to a mere 2%." And that was in 2016!

Source: Patel, N. (2019, February 15). Is Facebook Organic Reach Really Dead? Retrieved April 10, 2019, from

*What's the catch? (secondary point on volunteers)

One client used their email list of previous event attendees coupled with a simple "become a volunteer" email. That client received over 85 online volunteer sign-ups in less than 3 days. Two other clients used boosted Facebook ads and ended up getting more volunteer sign-ups than their events needed.

Mission accomplish, right?!? Negative!

What ended up happening is that clients, referenced above, received a flood of volunteer sign-ups. And that giant flood of interest is the point where things became tricky. Because not all volunteer's a created equal!

Years ago, a beer festival client found this out the hard way. They ended up with more than enough online volunteer sign-ups. The challenge was that at the event several volunteers confused volunteering their time with volunteering to drink a lot of beer for free. Thankfully, nobody was permanently damaged ... just bruised egos.

In hindsight, the screening of volunteers, before they signed up, would have most likely eliminated issues. And poor volunteer behavior isn't limited to beer festivals.

If you going to get your volunteers online using email or Facebook, have a well thought out screening process in place ... before allowing someone to submit their information. Your screening process should leave you with only the highest quality volunteers.


Cash or credit? And what the dummies do ...

Here's the tale of two outdoor ethnic festivals.

Both derive most of their gross revenue from scrumptious food and beverage sales.

One festival clears around USD 100,000 and the other approximately USD 300,000 in food and beverage. They're both 4-day events. Neither festival charges admission. And one festival has an event footprint (total useful square footage / meteres) approximately 55% smaller than the other.

Wanna guess which one takes credit cards?

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"Hookers host . . . Wine Tasting event!"

"Hookers host successful annual Wine Tasting event." Believe it or not, that was an actual article headline.

"Eugene, what the heck is going on here?!?!" I'm asking you to do a little research for your event. Specifically, research that involves successful modeling of events. Research regarding hookers?

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Have you ever purchased a ticket to your own event?

Let me ask you a quick question, "have you ever purchased a ticket to your own event?" You might think this a preposterous question. How could this possibly be that important? Because you'd be amazed at how something as simple as selling a ticket could get royally messed up.


In 2011, a client was selling air show tickets at a local grocery store. My focus at the time was on online ticket sales. Honestly, there a very few reasons not to sell a ticket online for your event. But that's what the client decided, and it's their event. For whatever reason, curiosity got the better of me. The web site which I maintained for the client clearly stated that you could buy online or at the local grocer. So, while going to pick up a few groceries, I decided to try a ticket to the event.

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Does your event suffer from being overly generous?

Date: 2/24/2019

Right now, our local area is under a severe wind watch for the next 12+ hours. The forecast is calling for wind gusts up to 75 Mph / 120 Kph. Forecasters are predicting widespread power outages and property damage due to high winds. If you listen to the local media, there is plenty of discussion about being prepared. "Are you ready when the power goes out?"


The same cautionary approach above needs to be applied to any event. "Are you ready for when things don't go as expected?" It could be anything. Hopefully, it never happens. But if something bad happens, are you prepared?

Years ago, a not for profit organizer was forced to sell their event because they couldn't pay their debts.

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This Event Crashed & "Burned" ... Badly

After it happened in 2017, I tried to comb through all the news reports on the Fyre Festival. It was intended to be a “luxury music festival” on Exuma, in the Bahamas. In the end, it was a complete disaster and the organizer sent to jail. It's also a cautionary tale on event promotion gone too far! If you're going to promote your event with hype - your customer experience better match!


Recently, two documentaries have been released on what many people consider one of the most significant event frauds in history. “Fyre Fraud” can be found on Hulu and “Fyre The Greatest Party that Never Happened” on Netflix. Please make the time to watch at least one of these documentaries.

Why watch a documentary on the Fyre Festival?

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Please Stop Undercharging for Your Event

Yes, this phrase is like a broken record in the event industry: “You just have to charge more!”

Let's be honest, it’s easier said than done. For years, event organizers have given me a deluge of reasons why they can’t raise their ticket prices. Here are just a few actual event organizer quotes over the years:

  • “Our sponsor would never approve of that price…a $20 General Admission gate ticket?”
    (Unless they’re covering all your event costs, sponsors should not be able to control what you charge for your event.)

  • “I think we’re asking the public to pay too much. We can’t charge that much!”

  • “If you think we can charge $100 for a VIP ticket to an air event in this town, you’re out of your effing mind!”
    (In this case, all VIP tickets for the event SOLD OUT at $100-$150 each.)

As with almost all monetary transactions, the price is rarely the REAL REASON that people don’t buy. A more significant reason would be if you didn’t establish the event’s value with your consumers and attendees. Don’t raise your prices unless you can get the consumers to agree (with their wallets) that they’re getting a great deal.

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Having the Wrong People in Charge of Critical Revenue-Generating Tasks

Fair Warning: what follows involves a sensitive topic for some. Please bear with me, because it’s vital for the future of your event.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of many events. Without them, some events wouldn’t exist!


However, I have to be brutally honest with you … Critical revenue roles at your event need to be filled by those with the appropriate and proven skill sets to successfully meet this responsibility. These critical revenue roles include anything to do with advertising, marketing, social media, and website creation. Some events could also include sponsorship as a vital revenue role.

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Do Your Really Know Your Event Attendee?

Every aspect of your event promotion needs to start with a comprehensive understanding of your target market. Make sure you truly understand your customer or potential attendee before committing to any marketing or advertising campaign. In the case of events, your target market is represented by your ideal event attendee. I cannot stress this enough. Target market research that’s laser-focused is a big deal.

Focus on Their Interests First, or Else!
People won’t buy tickets for an event, or even attend a free event, that doesn’t hold their interest. Especially in today’s social media driven marketplaces. A lack of interest is one of the biggest reasons events fail.

If you want to pack your event, the best place to start is with a hungry market. Fortunately, niche events (ethnic festivals & beer festivals) have a small but very hungry (thirsty) market. You need to make sure you fully understand your target market before you begin.

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Why You Need to Ask Difficult Event Survey Questions

WARNING: Fasten your seatbelts, because I’m about to fly off the handle a bit!

The Subjective Catastrophe
Event_promotion_survey_questions Event organizers get themselves in HUGE trouble because they’re subjective in how they plan and execute their events.

According to Princeton University’s WordNet definition, a subjective person uses “judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts.Mix in a subjective event organizer mindset with some ego and you have the perfect mix for disaster. Trust me, it’s not pretty and I’ve seen many completely avoidable event catastrophes, all a result of people being stupidly subjective.

"I Know Better Than Everybody Else!"
Here’s the typical scenario . . . An event organizer becomes hell-bent on running an event THEIR way (also known as Captain Ahab Syndrome).  The end result is that they adopt a mindset of knowing better than their own event attendees.  Please heed the following.  It doesn’t matter how noble or great YOU think your event is, if people don’t share those same beliefs – or worst, don’t care – your event will flop, GUARANTEED!

Continue reading "Why You Need to Ask Difficult Event Survey Questions" »

Being Proactive About Your Event Customer Service

Event_customer_service.jpg As your event approaches the amount of traffic to your web site will increase dramatically. There is an important factor you need to be cognizant about. People visiting your event website only take in limited amounts of information . . . Most people will look at the information that is important to them at any given moment. 

A certain percentage of your web site visitors are guaranteed to miss important information. As a result, you might have to deal with unnecessary customer service issues.

e.g. - A few hundred people show up to your CASH ONLY parking lot with just a credit card. It’s even worse if the closest ATM is 20 minutes down the road.

Minimize Customer Service Issues
You can minimize a significant number of customer service issues with a robust FAQ page. A good FAQ page should cover people’s most common questions. As stated above, not everybody will visit your FAQ page. You need a way to get people to visit your frequently asked questions page. That’s where a dedicated e-mail list comes into play. By the time your event is about to take place, you should have a decent list of prospects and customers.

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A Great Event Survey Question - When Disaster Strikes

When an event doesn't turn out well - things can get pretty dicey. If big bucks are on the line, the "reason why the event failed" debate can get even more heated. In most cases, the failure of an event usually comes down to poor attendance. It's pretty simple . . . Low attendance = not enough revenue to pay the bills. In order to fix your attendance woes your going to need some concrete answers.

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The Importance of Market Research in Planning Your Event

by Eugene Loj

Really knowing a target market is the foundation of getting people to your event. Event organizers frequently call me in a last minute panic . . . They can’t understand why people AREN’T buying tickets for their event. After going through a bunch of probing questions, my response is almost always the same - “You’re having problems selling tickets to your event, because people aren’t interested in what you have to offer.” It sucks having to tell people this – especially when they’ve worked so hard planning their event.


Truth be told, it doesn’t matter how much work goes into planning your event. If people aren’t interested in what you have to offer, they’re not going to show up! If you want to pack your event, focus on finding a passionate marketplace that will automatically (or as close to automatically) attend your event. 

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Two Amazingly Powerful Event Survey Questions

Event_Feedback_Survey_QuestionsUsing the right questions in an event survey is an extremely powerful way to position your event with a target audience.  Yet very few event promoters and organizers use surveys. Event surveying can be done both before and after your event. As with any survey, the focus should be solely on your target market.

Below are my two absolute favorite survey questions for event planning purposes. Don’t disregard the potential for great feedback because of their simplicity.

It's far easier to pack an event when you know what your audience wants and you go out of your way to give it to them.  Few things are as powerful as surveys in terms of honing in your target market's wants, needs, and desires.

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An Extremely Dangerous Event Planning Mistake

This is a really important post, so please carefully consider the information that follows . . . 

Bad_Event_Ideas One HUGE mistake made by event organizers and event planners is holding an event that’s “never been done before.” The previous statement should always be followed up with the following question, “WHY has that kind of event never been done before?”

When it comes to planning events, being overly ambitious or even too creative can be very dangerous to your pocketbook.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
My suggestion to you is don't try and reinvent the wheel - especially if you're new to event planning or event promotions. Look towards events that are easy money makers as opposed to being a cool event.

In my experience cool / fringe events are the most difficult events to get people to attend. That’s why I love doing air show and beer festival event marketing. There is already “a starving crowd” for air shows and beers festivals. The deck is already stacked in my favor.

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The Danger of Not Having Your Event

Long_term_event_planning Two weeks ago, I found out that a client decided to “take a year off” from their event. The event had been successfully taking place for the last 14 years. What started as a small event - ballooned into a truly great event. When I heard that the event wasn’t taking place this year, my first reaction was “What? Are you kidding me?!?!” The event was loved attendees and most importantly – making money for the event organizer.

I fully understand that it’s the event organizers decision to take the year off.  It’s their event, their pocketbook, thus ultimately their decision. But I’m not quite sure if the event organizer fully understands the ramifications of their decision.

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