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Sticky Situation

In the Hyatt pool circa 1992The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress is one of my all-time favorite meeting venues. The first time I ever traveled for business was to attend a huge annual sales convention being held there. My wife and infant daughter (that’s her in the photo) were able to accompany me. I was fresh out of college and found the place seriously impressive. Since that memorable first business trip, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a bunch of meetings at world-class venues and I may have become a little jaded, but I still consider it one of the best hotels anywhere; bar none (the coconut shrimp they serve at Hemingway’s would be enough to get my vote. It seems like it was the only thing we ate the last time I did a meeting there).

As you can probably tell, I have many great memories of this hotel both as an attendee and a meetings professional. This post will not be about any of them.

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The hotel’s conference sales manager made sure to point out the perfectly tasteful carpet that had just been put down throughout the entire meetings area. Trying to distract myself from imagining what it would be like to be sitting by the pool, I guesstimated just how much the rug had set them back. It was a lot of square footage. Given the sizable investment involved, as well as the wear and tear these carpets are exposed to, it’s no wonder they aggressively protected them with some sort of heavy duty stain repellent. I believe they said Teflon.

TapeSince nothing sticks to Teflon, it makes a great stain repellent. Unfortunately, there is something that gets used at just about every meeting, conference and seminar that really needs to stick to the hotel carpet for it to do what it’s supposed to do. Something we all cherish and hold dear to our hearts — gaffer tape.

There were fifteen breakout rooms at that meeting. Each one was stuffed with round 10-top tables. Each room had a projector and a small sound system. Each room saw a ton of traffic as the attendees rotated through from room to room and back and forth, to and from plenary sessions in the main ballroom. Thousands of chances for folks to get tripped up by VGA cables, extension cords, microphone lines. Ordinarily not a problem if the gaffer tape is doing what it meant to do. Major problem when it’s not.

Several mic stands were toppled. At least one projector almost got pulled off its cart. More than one person tripped and ended up flat on the floor. We kept going back and adding on layers of tape. In some places, the tape spread out a foot on either side of whatever wire it was attempting to keep down. We rerouted the cables around the perimeter each room whenever possible. We spent way more time that week dealing with that stupid tape than we really should have needed to. It took time and resources from other things we needed to take care of and everything else ran much less smoothly than it should have. Something we rarely need to think about became a major problem.

The biggest hassle came while we were breaking down and packing up. The tape that didn’t stick to the carpets stuck very, very well to itself as it got accidentally pulled up, rolled up and tripped over during the course of the week. It was the same exact mess you get when some rookie pulls up a cable without pulling the tape off first — sticky side to sticky side, just about impossible to pull apart. Only in this case, there wasn’t a rookie to sit in a corner to fix the mess with scissors and a knife. We ended up just shipping it all home and dealing with it back at the office.

No matter how much experience you have and stories you’ve heard, it’s important to remember that not everything can be anticipated, known about and prepared for. And sometimes it’s the simplest, most basic element of your setup that can cause the biggest problems.

Related resources:

Your turn:

Have you ever been completely blindsided by a tool, technology, methodology or process that was so simple and basic you never expected to have a serious problem with it? If so, please share what happened as a comment to this post so we can all benefit from your experience.