Meetings Mayhem!, a new book by Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP, is a collection of short stories of meetings that have gone terribly wrong — and the meeting professionals who lived to tell about it!
You know those after-hours gabfests at meetings and hospitality industry conferences where a group of colleagues sit down and share war stories, and someone always says, “Someone should write a book about this!” Well, now someone has.
That someone is Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP, and the book is aptly named Meetings Mayhem! Behind the Scenes of Meetings and Events. Matthews-Lombardo has collected an eclectic group of tales from meeting professionals, speakers, entertainers and others in the field. Some of these tales are downright hilarious — I dare you to read Saira Banu Kianes’ incentive catamaran misadventure in Chapter 2 without cringe-laughing out loud. Others are harrowing tales of tragedy narrowly averted, such as Marjorie Trott’s story titled, Living Through the Not-So Rebellious Coup d-etat, which recounts a story about a group of rebels who wanted to make the hotel she was then serving as Associate Direct of Events in Manila, the Philippines, their base of operations as the hotel went into lock-down.
From disease outbreaks to outrageous entertainment contract riders and other bizarre celebrity VIP requests, to the inevitable tech glitches such as malfunctioning HVAC systems and July 4 celebration display breaking down last-minute on a cruise ship — every story is a true recounting from professionals who somehow managed to pull success out of their hats. Or at least lived to plan meetings another day. As the author says, “We can’t make this stuff up, people!”
Each chapter is dedicated to one story, either in first person or as an “as told to,” including some explanations about the backdrop, setting and impetus behind each of the challenges. Each chapter also includes definitions of the industry terms used so those who may not be as well-versed in the meetings and hospitality worlds can get the full flavor of the tale. The narrators also provide the lessons they learned through each specific trial by fire, whether it was large and potentially life-threatening or something that may seem small to outsiders but actually took a lot of work to mitigate behind the scenes. At the end of the book, Matthews-Lombardo provides a reference page explaining the professional designations displayed by some of the story narrators.
If you are a meeting or hospitality professional, a third-party vendor, entertainer, AV specialist, or anyone else who is immersed in this wild and crazy world, you will either think, “There but for the grace of the powers-that-be go I,” or “I can top that!” If you’re one of the latter, contact Matthews-Lombardo — she’s already starting to collect more stories to feature on her website and in Meetings Mayhem!, Volume 2. It also would make a great gift for meeting and hospitality professionals’ loved ones who, no matter how often you explain what it is you do, just never quite seem to get it.
This book also could be considered a must-read for anyone who has ever attended a convention, trade show, conference, incentive trip or any other type of professionally run event. It will amaze and perhaps freak you out a bit to get a glimpse into all the things that go into making that event happen, and give you an appreciation for all the professionals do — down to most seemingly insignificant detail like having to re-set 300 tables so the linen pattern lines up just right. You will never again go to an event without having a much deeper appreciation for all the work, sweat, late nights and anxiety attacks those who put on the event go through, all without letting you know about the potential or actual disaster going on behind the scenes.