R.I.P. - Chicago Conference

Since April I have spent a great many hours overseeing, managing and personally handling almost every detail for a conference my company was co-sponsoring in October. Officially as of yesterday, Oct. 3, the conference is now dead.

This was the second year for the conference. Last year had it's challenges but in the end we had a good turnout (about 40) and the faculty and registrants left very happy. I'm not a good event planner when it comes to personal stuff, but I'm actually great at the work-related ones. Developing the program, marketing campaign, speaker list, presentations...it was all in my hands. Unfortunately our attendance only hit 13, so we decided to kill the thing.

So what went wrong? Judging from the feedback we received, it wasn't the program, marketing, location or price. We had a difficult time getting a third sponsor, and once we did everything went on hold for six weeks while my key contact was on vacation. We didn't start the marketing as soon as I wanted to. And once we did, though my company did it's part, the other ones lagged a bit. And, as it turns out, the biggest difference from last year is that a lot of hospitals are now putting freezes on education related functions.

I've been told over the last few days by several people in and out of the industry that this is a sign of the times. There are a lot of conferences cancelling left and right, which includes ones who had sold out attendance for years. Our graphic designer told me the story of a mortgage company who's had sold out conferences for years and this year got absolutely no one...and paid a huge hotel "penalty" of $72k for cancelling. Luckily the final bill for us is a lot less, but for a company that is really struggling it's not the outcome we wanted.

So I've been pretty down this week. Between a bad sinus infection and getting no sleep due to the conference stress and crappy sinus medicine that makes me feel like a jittery, foggy-brained, blurry-eyed mess, I've been struggling to get through each day. And then there is the feeling of "Is there any ting I could have done differently?" and the stomach knots from worrying about how others would perceive the cancellation of the conference at a time where we are trying to build our company's currently weak image. I also worried about it affecting the relationships we have with the other two sponsors since we were the ones who initiated this.

Though I know this is not my fault, at the same time things are not looking too good financially here so this loss is hard for me. However, it appears things should be ok in the end. The sponsors have been calling me personally to cheer me up and thank/commend me for what I've done. No relationships will suffer, thank goodness. Those who had registered are handling the news well, thanks to the communication strategy I developed. At the end of the day we got a lot of great advertising through mailings and e-mail marketing, and that's a big plus. I think we've handled ourselves as well as could be expected, and we'll come through this ok.

So why the flowers?

Those are courtesy of my bosses, as "appreciation for all of my efforts in regards to the conference." It was really unexpected and a very nice gesture. They, and the rest of the office, thought I could probably use some cheering up with everything going on. I know this place usually drives me crazy with the dysfunctionality, lack of communication and passive-aggressive/childish behavior, but at this particular moment I'm ok with sitting here in my large cube with my colorful gift in view. And to remind me of this day I thought I would blog it, since I know at some point soon I'll be going crazy here and will need a reminder that not every day here is a day in hell.

No comments: