What can event professionals learn from the Notting Hill Carnival?
Last weekend saw the streets of West London filled to capacity for the annual Notting Hill Carnival. With an estimated attendance of over 2.5 million people, enjoying over 200 food stalls and 40 sound systems, the carnival, whilst a highlight for many, is the very definition of a logistical and organisational nightmare! With so many varied stakeholders, keeping everyone happy is no easy task and not everyone will be perfectly aligned in their needs and expectations.
Take the Metropolitan Police for example, whose main aim is to keep the peace and maintain public order whilst at the same time ensuring everyone has a good time. To do this, 13,000 extra officer shifts were signed off and there was a marked increase in the use of the unpopular ‘stop and search’ policy. Whilst the dancing policeman may now be a carnival celebrity, clearly not everyone will be dancing to the same tune.
Transport for London is another organisation challenged by the sheer size of the event. They are required to ensure that the attendees, many of whom arrive and leave on public transport, are able to complete their journeys, safely and on time. Road closures, diverted buses, congested tube stations, and heavy traffic are the norm, and complaints about the provision of public transport are often loud and impassioned.
Consider also the residents who once a year are left with noise, disruption, litter and an increase in crime. By now, I’m sure my point is clear; any event has stakeholders and these stakeholders often have very different requirements and expectations. Away from the carnival there is a dilemma faced by event professionals. Delegates want cutting edge content, good networking opportunities and enjoyment. Exhibitors want the maximum amount of brand exposure and a large amount of quality leads. Event organisers want everything to go smoothly, want positive feedback, good attendances and a healthy profit! Can these differing demands coexist? The answer is without doubt yes! The reason for this is simple. For an event to be successful, especially in the long term, all stakeholder groups have to be engaged and satisfied. If one group is excluded then any event will be doomed to failure. A good event cannot exist without delegates, will fail with disenfranchised exhibitors, and has no long term future without making money. Event managers need to manage these stakeholders using all of the resources they have available to them, whether this is choosing the right partners, sourcing the right venues or using the right technology. These resources are readily available, they just need to be used correctly.
Hopefully everyone who attended this year’s carnival had a good time. It’s the world’s second largest carnival so there are many challenges, but if residents, the Metropolitan Police, Transport for London and the revellers can at least coexist peacefully, then the organisers have done a remarkable job.