Today should be a day of victory. By all reports that I’m seeing so far today, this weekend’s ConFusion went brilliantly. Our numerous author guests had an enjoyable time, attendees seem unanimous in agreeing that the event was amazing, and most of the staff has expressed a wish to return in the same capacity because of the fun they had putting this thing together. I should be glowing, but I’m not.
We fucked up big.
Instead of feeling elated and spending Sunday evening and Monday morning celebrating, I spent much of the time receiving a well-deserved dressing down from the director of events and the general manager. A relationship that has lasted nearly a decade has been damaged severely, and it that stings considerably.
As the hotel liaison, I have several responsibilities, but the most important ones include ensuring a consistent channel of communication between the hotel and the convention, protecting the convention’s interests and facilitating the throwing of the event we are trying to create, and protecting the hotel’s interests to ensure that the trust they have placed in our treatment of their considerable investment is not misplaced.
The first I achieve principally by serving as a single point of contact between all of the various departments of our convention and the various departments of the hotel. In this way, I am able to collect all of the information that is available and use that big-picture view to coordinate with the chairperson to ensure that his or her vision for the convention happens. Sometimes, this means that I must whine, beg, borrow, and cajole in order to get special concessions from the hotel and its staff. Sometimes it means I have to engineer cooperation between multiple convention departments to make sure their desires match the physical realities of the convention space. Sometimes, it means that I have to tell the hotel or the convention “No” or “Not in that way” during planning.
During the course of doing all of the above, so it is that I protect the convention and the hotel from one another. This is not to say that there is an adversarial relationship—nothing could be further from the truth between ConFusion and the Troy Marriott (although I have certainly worked events where calling the relationship “adversarial” would be being very kind)—but it is to say that both parties are understandably focused on their own goals and often have difficulty seeing the goals of the other party. It is my job to smooth that out…to establish what is the most important to both parties and to convey that sufficiently to each side.
One of the many reasons I adore working with the staff of the Troy Marriott is that they, more than any facility I have ever worked with in all of my years of doing events, see our “side” of the event very clearly. They readily grasp what is important to our event and its attendees in a way that has made the event a pleasure to put together. Our convention staff, conversely, have very little understanding of what is important to the hotel. It makes for an interesting dynamic that is quite the opposite of professional events I’ve managed where the corporate-types all readily grasp what the venue needs and the venue neither knows nor cares what the event needs.
I present all of this as a necessary backdrop for the disrespect that we displayed for the hotel this year. During the setup of the convention we destroyed the planning that the banquets staff had put in by running them around undoing things that had been requested (and in some cases re-doing that which they had undone), giving contradictory requests, and in several cases being outright verbally abusive to their staff. Throughout the convention itself, we repeatedly ignored their rules on signage, attire, and food and alcohol consumption.
Then, we started really misbehaving.
By weekend’s end, we had flagrantly ignored several issues of considerable importance to the hotel, and in many cases caused literally THOUSANDS of dollars in damage. We undid much of the benefit of their remodeling in a way that, were this a sitcom, would have seem hyperbolic and unrealistically absurd. We were complete assholes.
Let me take a moment to clarify, though. This was not the attendees…this was the doing of our staff and department heads. If you were an attendee, guest, or volunteer, you very likely did not do anything untoward at all. Every single major issue that occurred was perpetrated by the people who should know better than anybody how to behave.
It is this fact, more than anything else, that really adds sting to the insult. It would appear that when I indicated to the staff and concom that we were not allowed to do certain things and that we were allowed to do other things but only in certain ways, the take-away from that was that I was simply being a dick and could be ignored. Clearly, it seems, I only say these things to pick on people. Obviously, I’m just being mean. So I was ignored.
When I saw the wreckage we caused (and heard about more that I hadn’t had a chance to witness), I was enraged. When our event director—and later the general manager—described to me the things that they had seen, that rage turned to shame and embarrassment. These people had treated us like friends and family for years. I have had a relationship with them that is longer than most relationships I’ve had with individual people; and I’m relatively new on the scene. We were never treated merely as clients and we treated them worse than we would even vendors. We abused staff, we violated their property, and we did so with ruthless aplomb.
I am not generally disposed to tears, and when Christie, the director of events, shared with me what she had found I had to literally put down my head and fight back tears. Whatever betrayal I might have felt must have been pitiful compared to sitting on the other side of that desk.
The worst part of it is, the vast majority of this can be hung directly on me. It was my responsibility. With departments directly by my friends and by associates I trusted implicitly, I was lax in surveying their areas. I spent less time doing circuits of the convention and, when I did, I expended precious little focus on those areas governed by people that I had known for years, that had stood up in my wedding, or that had done admirably in the past. I allowed my trust and my natural propensity toward laziness to result in a piss-poor performance.
Perhaps the lake of beer that soaked carpet in one room would have been a mere puddle had I been more conscientious. Maybe the furniture that was to varying degrees damaged would not have been had I been on the scene more frequently to prevent its movement. Even the food chunks and grease that were run down bathtub drains by individuals doing dishes might have been prevented by closer inspection of the property. Perhaps if I had been more vehement in preventing certain individuals access to the hotel staff, they wouldn’t have been given the run-around as much as they were.
Certainly the actual perpetrators of these acts (and countless others) are in the wrong and should certainly feel their own sense of shame for a job done poorly, but that does not ease my share of the burden. I failed, and I failed miserably. It would not be inaccurate to say that I failed epically. Epic ConFusion indeed.
I would like to apologize for the torrent of words this became, but it’s been weighing on me for nearly 48 hours now. I’m still not okay with this, and I have some significant decisions to make as to how to proceed with…well, pretty much everything.
For now, however, I have to return to the tasks of real life while dealing with the wreckage that we have caused. There’s a set of tasks I really look forward to…