Common Mistakes: Production Snafus

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that producing a job is one of the most exciting yet nerve-wracking aspects of the event industry. I can not tell you the amount of times, when I first started, that guests would walk in on me and my staff rushing to finish the job. We were doing last minute things like sweeping the floors or bringing in that last arrangement.

Here’s my top ten list of things to keep in mind to avoid production snafus:

1. If it’s possible, make sure you have at least one day to install your job. Try to encourage your clients to avoid places that double book events by reminding your clients you are not a magician. Either they are going to pay for more labor or you’re taking the risk of not finishing on time.

2. Try to arrive on location as early as you can. We have been known to request midnight arrival at locations to start setting up. Most of the time, hotels are very accommodating.

3. Make sure you have enough manpower to execute the job. Even if this costs a bit more, you should always try to have more than enough help.

4. It’s extremely important to protect the hotel or location property, so make sure you bring a lot of drop cloths or plastic covers to protect all the flooring. Be very careful with the expensive chandeliers in hotels. In the past, I have had to pay for breaking more than my share of crystals.

5. This goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, make sure you never, and I mean NEVER, use any nails or screws in any of the hotel walls or church pews. This could ban you from the location forever.

6. I have been know to lie to my staff when we are setting up. If we have until 6pm, I’ll tell them we need to finish by 4pm. Most of the time we end up finishing at 5 and everyone is happy.

7. It’s extremely important that most floral arrangements are completed at your store or studio so when you bring them on location, all you need to do is refresh them. You can save yourself a lot of time this way. Just make sure you have a good packing system.

8. In order to avoid interruptions while installing a job, I suggest you provide a very tasty lunch and lots of snacks to your production staff.

9. Make sure you have every single item you need to install the job. There are always last minute changes, so also remember to have extra of everything including: flowers, oasis, vases etc. You do not want to waste time going back to your store or office

10. Last but not least, and this might be the most important part of producing a job, make sure you leave the hotel or location spotless after the party is over. I learned this lesson the hard way 18 years ago when I was banned from a hotel for leaving a mess behind me.

Most folks think the event design business is all glamour and fun, and in a way it is. However, I’ll say at least 80% is about schlepping and hard work. Even today, I am still working hard on making my production as effective as I can.

What is one thing you learned the hard way while executing your jobs? What would you add to my list above? Okay be honest, have you ever finished a job while the guests were in the room? (The annoying part is that some guests arrive early–it ruins the magic.)

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  • Stephanie

    Great advice! Thanks so much for sharing :)

  • rachelleizard

    Preston, thanks for being so candid about your own mistakes. It’s hard for us to believe that you have EVER made a mistake!!! :0)

  • joana tomova

    My weddings are small, up to 100 guests, and the dinner is in restaurants. Most of the times we have only 3 to 4 hous to set up all the decoration and it’s always to the last possible minute. But I’m really mad when the guests come 3 , yes 3 hous earlier!!! It happend only one time but it was enough :-))) Since than I talk to the restaurant staff to not let the guests in, until the hour in the invitation.

  • Sonja

    You are so on the money! We have had numerous events where guests have shown up an hour or so early and we are running around like crazy making sure things are getting done before our beautiful bride arrives.

    One of our craziest ones was where the ceremony and reception were in the same spot. We had to tear down the ceremony site and move tables in. What was crazy about it was that the guests were suppose to have cocktail hour in the front away from where we were setting up, but they all decided to come and watch us! It ruined the surprise of the set up and made our staff get discombobulated! The only thing that I would change about that day would be to make sure the catering staff only served food and drinks in the cocktail hour instead of serving where all the guests were.

  • Molly

    My biggest mistake was not having a professional review all of my contracts. We once produced a fabulous event for a local theater that we thought had our best interests in mind just because we had THEIR best interests in mind. I was too trusting, thus leaving room for loop holes and lets just say…I learned my lesson. In a big way. :P

    Love the advice and the beautiful blog posts as usual!
    Much Love!

  • http://YOURWEBSITE NancyWauer

    I once had to wait on another ice sculpture vase to be made because the chef broke the first one. When it was finally moved into place, using a ladder and surrounded by the guests, because we were now past the event time, I began my creation. I had the best time, laughing and running up and down the ladder explaining some of what I was doing. When I finished, I received a huge round of applause. I curtsied, grab my ladder and drop cloth and exited stage right! (I made sure my business cards were available and I developed some wonderful clients from this experience – at the time I owned a flower shop). ~N

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