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Learn from our Mistakes: Five (Events) Horror Stories to Keep You on Your Toes

With Halloween mere days away our team all caught up to share their horror stories from past events. Broken trophies, nearly announcing the wrong winner… Nothing ever goes to plan! But we’ve certainly learned from our mistakes – and hopefully you can, too!

“That’s not the winner!”

At each of our Awards Gala Presentation Dinners we like to make a little ceremony of announcing the winners, printing out their names in advance and inserting them into a special golden envelope. It helps add a little mystery and magic to the evening.

Except when you put the wrong name in the envelope!

At one of our dinners the partner had just wrapped up their speech to a rapt audience of over 400 guests. Reached for their envelope, opened it (cue drumroll) and then looked up saying, “This isn’t correct!”

It turns out the name in the envelope was wrong! Thankfully the partner had attended the judging day and knew who their winner was supposed to be, so we were able to rectify things before the wrong person was awarded.

We learned our lesson! We now ensure all of the winner’s envelopes are triple checked!

“It looked like a warzone”

During onstage presentations our event manager, Kristi, was asked by a guest for assistance in the toilets as her friend was unwell. The manager stepped out and learned that “unwell” was something of an understatement. The friend was unable to stand and vomiting (everywhere!)

At this point presentations ended and the main course began which, of course, meant a mass exodus as everyone tried to head for the toilets at once.

Annette recalls, “It looked like a warzone” as she was forced to stand at the door to the toilets turning people off before they, too stumbled into the mess.

Meanwhile Kristi had called security, who rang for an ambulance and were able to assist until the paramedics arrived.

Unsurprisingly, we now complete extensive risk assessments with our venues, including their first aid protocol and ensuring a first aid officer is onsite!

Don’t Break the Trophies!

It used to be our custom to hide all the trophies under a table on the night of the Gala dinner. Then, once the evening had commenced, we would bring out the trophies as each Award was presented.

In addition to this we used to have very pointy, very tall trophies. Picture a skinny, crystal pyramid.

Notice how I’m saying “we used to” quite a lot.

It turns out that neither of these things are a very good idea, as we discovered after not one, but two of the trophies had their tops accidentally knocked off as they were brought out from under the table!

With two of the trophies very thoroughly broken, we were forced to give the unbroken (but incorrect) trophy to several winners and take it off them as they left the stage, to re-use for the next winner!

The next year saw a few significant changes in both the trophy design, and their placement on the night of the Gala! We learnt our lesson well.

This is (Not) a Test

Switching to new software can be simultaneously the best thing you do, but also something of a challenge. We were trialling our latest events software and setting up test emails when, unbeknownst to us, 18,000 of our contacts received a chirpy little message:

“This is a Test 😊”

Thankfully most took it in good humour, but to this day we are now much more careful when setting up and sending out emails!

“Can you act surprised?”

We love it when the media get involved with our Awards and help share the stories of our
Finalists and winners. To assist them with this, before each gala dinner we prepare embargoed media releases which include the winner’s details. This enables the papers to have their stories ready to go immediately after the winner is announced.

Unfortunately, it also means the paper knows who the winner is before it’s officially ready, and if someone makes a mistake and publishes the article a little too early…

Our event manager, Hanna woke up the morning of her Gala to discover one of her winners being congratulated online over 12 hours before they were due to be awarded. After calling the paper and asking for the article to be taken down (from their website and across all their social media channels) she picked up the phone and dialled the winner:

“Do you know?”

“Yes, I know.”

“Can you act surprised?”

“Absolutely.”

It was some of the best acting jobs we’ve seen in a while. The hugs. The tears. We’ll never forget.

This was unfortunately one of those situations where the mistake was entirely out of our hands, but the way everyone joined forces to stay cheerful even if some of the mystery was gone really helped brighten what had been a very stressful experience. Sometimes the best you can do is act fast and keep on smiling.


Are your events keeping you up at night? Thankfully with 30 years of experience running Awards-focused events, we don’t get caught out too often these days. If you’d like help running your event or want to get involved with one of our existing Awards programs email Josh today.

What are your horror stories? Share them with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.