Imagine this... your husband (who is the mac daddy thoughtful gift-giver of all time) gets you tickets to meet your favorite TV star who just penned her first book. She's not just ANY star. She's Chrissy Metz who plays Kate Pearson on the runaway rollercoaster ride of the new "yes, that's me" drama on NBC's This Is Us. It's one of the top network dramas right now for a reason. (This is coming from a very judgmental eyebrow-raised writer who does not like most network or even cable series these days.) This show is GOOOOOD. To the last teardrop.
You can't explain it, unless you watch it. It's just so... REAL. You just know someone who's like most of the characters in the show. Sometimes a loved one. A dreaded one. Or yourself. With plot twists that make you gasp, cheer or tear up at most episodes.
So here I am - a fellow life-long chubby girl, meeting one of the few plus-sized actresses with great roles - with a special Meet & Greet opportunity which includes a copy of her new book. I dressed in a new red top to echo my joy. I studied the tickets for instructions about the Meet & Greet. They said to arrive at 8:00 PM. We scurried to the venue to be there by 7:00 PM, just to be safe.
We entered the stately concert hall - the Perelman Theater at the Philadelphia Kimmel Center - and approached the check-in table. Two young guys and one girl were perched behind piles of the new book. One guy checked our tickets and handed us the books to be signed. Oh, goodie! Since we were early, we looked for a restroom, and then places to sit before the theater opened. Because I'm the consummate networker and talk to everybody, I turned to a woman next to me who also had a book in hand. I asked her, "When do we go for the Meet & Greet?"
She said, "Oh, honey. That happened at 6:30. Didn't you get an email?"
No, this wasn't happening. We never received an email. Any email. No instructions. I rocketed off my seat and rushed to the Meet & Greet lounge room up a huge stairway. Empty.
Tears sprouted, but my feet moved like a ready-to-charge bull, looking for the matador.
Back at the front desk, the lone girl, seated, said YES, I was confirmed for the Meet & Greet. She then checked me off on the list. Yes, I could proceed to the Meet & Greet venue. And it should still be going on. "No," I told her. Where was the email? Who sent the email? And then I realized... this girl just works here at the venue. Her blank stare told me she had no idea what was going on.
So I put my meeting planner professional hat on, untwisted my panties, and asked to speak to the person in charge of the event, after explaining that my husband just spent $276 for a Meet & Greet which we didn't get. "How would you feel?" I asked. Blank stare. After a few minutes, I spotted a woman with a walkie-talkie.
After explaining our predicament, 10 other people (some who came all the way from New York City) said they received no instructionary email either. Whattyah know. We might have a riot on our hands. I told the manager I have run events with celebrities. Things happen. "So how can we fix this?"
The smart manager of the venue went right to Chrissy's people. Within two minutes, she gathered all of us and secretly wound us through the crowds toward a secret back door entrance. Lo and behold, out comes Chrissy, in all her exuberant smiling glory, hugging each one of us and spending not a minute but 10 with this private VIP group before the show. This wasn't just lemonade... but limoncello!
So, after multiple conversations and pictures, off we went, 12 supremely happy people back into the hall for the talk show-like program. It was terrific. Fun, insightful, poignant and intimate. But as we left, we heard several groups asking where the Meet & Greet was. They didn't get the email. They were hoping the private event was AFTER the performance. And no one from the staff was to be found.
Woah, would I be MAD.
So, what did I learn from this?
1. If you're having an event, a party, a wedding... the success of the event all comes down to attention to details and great communication. One of my favorite sayings is... "The greatest misconception about communication is... that it has been achieved." I know what I said, but did you hear it that way? Most times, I bet not. That's what happened here. Lack of planning details and direct communication.
2. Technology fails sometimes. People fail sometimes. When something is as important as satisfying a person holding a $140 ticket, you would think they would get the list right. Get the email out. Double check the delivery. Was it the ticket company's fault? The promoter? The venue? A hundred different things could have happened. All I know is... there were a number of people who did not get the experience they paid for. Bad reviews happen even when the program was superb.
3. Logistics are important. The staff at the front desk was not trained. Or they did not do their jobs. They were supposed to shepherd us to the woman with the secret list. They didn't. Just handed out books. Gaps in service - and people not working out logistics - can make or break an event. You don't get a second chance.
4. It's how you fix things that count. The manager did her job. Chrissy's staff did theirs. She even apologized for the mishap... even though she had no clue what was happening. All the other team members apologized as well. My "afterwards posse" was thrilled. Felt special. It's all HOW you handle it that counts.
5. I should have been more prepared. At future Meet & Greets, I will know to ask up front... when and where.
6. Be grateful. I have an amazing husband who showers me with love and thoughtfulness. It's my turn to return the love.
And that also means being grateful for a wonderful event, saying thanks to Chrissy Metz and her team for the great comeback. And to the entire cast of This Is Us, thanks for making Tuesday night TV enjoyable again, even for this jaded writer.
The Detail-Driven Devil of Meeting Planners...
Mary Ellen Sokalski
Diva of Direct Marketing.