When an Event Disappoints

I did an event yesterday. In addition to the booth fee, which I thought was very reasonable at $30, each vendor was asked to donate an item for a silent auction. The funds raised from the silent auction will go to the church at which the event was held. The event was a bit of a dud. There were few people who came through. I know it was well advertised in the area. Still, sometimes those things just happen.

One of the vendors was much less understanding than I. After the first half hour she began complaining. She complained to the coordinator. She complained to the vendors around her. And, because she wasn’t exactly quiet with her complaints, we all knew how displeased she was.

Halfway through the four-hour event she demanded a refund. When she was told that her booth fee was non-refundable she began accusing the coordinator of fraud and theft. She threatened to go to the media and “let them know” that the event was a fraud.

Eventually one of the people involved in the running of the event gave the disgruntled vendor her money back. The vendor also took back her silent auction item. Even though she had been packed up for at least half an hour, it took her another half an hour to leave. By the time she left she had spread vile accusations through about a third of the vendors–several of whom left early.

This particular vendor left a bad impression of herself and of her company. The company is almost completely unknown in that particular area. Now most of the vendors there will associate her behavior with the company. That’s bad business.

There are several things to consider when you decide to participate in an event. Is the booth rental fee reasonable? Is it too far away? Is it an established event? Are the demographics in the area a good fit for my products? And, even if the event passes all of these questions with flying colors, it can still wind up with few attendees. That’s the risk you take when you decide to do an event.

The disgruntled vendor had traveled a long way. But, she made that choice. This was only the second year for the event. Since it was called “The Second Annual . . .” she had to know that. The event was in a somewhat small town. Since her business involved security devices, a town where many people don’t bother to lock their doors might not be the most target-rich environment. So, in my opinion, the disgruntled vendor was at least partially at fault if she didn’t like the way things turned out.

Here’s the thing, though. Even if she had good reason to be upset, the way she handled things was completely inappropriate. She upset several people. She made a public spectacle of herself. It would have been fine to go to the event coordinator and express her displeasure. It would even be fine to request a refund, though I consider it unreasonable for her to demand it. And, once she had her refund, it was even more inappropriate for her to stay around and stir up more trouble.

When you do an event you need to remember that no one can guarantee an outcome. As a matter of fact, even if there are hundreds of attendees, that’s no guarantee that you’ll have great sales or add lots of parties to your calendar. And, lack of sales and/or bookings doesn’t mean your time is completely wasted. I’ve done events where the only thing I gained was a new friend. But, what could be better than that?

Also, make sure you’ve taken responsibility for your part in the event’s success. Talk about it on social media. Invite your friends, family, and customers. If every vendor brings in 5 people, the event will usually go well. If each one brings in 10, it will probably be a smash.

Finally, no matter how upset you might be, don’t make things worse by throwing a fit. That disgruntled vendor’s behavior said much more about her than it did about the event.


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