Alot of the stories I have to tell are about dealing with the unexpected. When you think you have it all figured out...and then something crops up and throws an enormous spanner in the works. There is only so much you can prepare for and then it’s thinking on your feet. And learning the knack of second guessing what people want. This story is about the time I had some members of the royal family come to an event and how I prepared for it, and then how it nearly went very, very wrong!
Whenever members of the Royal family attend an event there is a set protocol and it's wise to brush up on this (Debretts will will have your back) so you know what to say and how things are 'done'. There is the security element to manage of course, but their teams are fabulous at this and will guide you through it, telling you exactly what they need and when with a very in depth schedule (including toilet breaks, I kid you not). It is a slick and well-oiled machine. My role on this event was the main liaison so I was in touch with Kensington Palace before the night itself and then I was also there as they arrived to guide them and make sure everything happened as planned. I'd organised a site visit 2 weeks earlier with their PPO (Police Protection Officer) and felt totally prepared. I’d been told that they wouldn’t need any food or drink as were going to dinner later, however I felt it would be inhospitable to not offer them anything except tap water so I arranged for a lovely bottle of wine and a few bowls of olives in case anyone was peckish.
So I was feeling pretty on top of it all, and they arrived bang on time (literally to the minute, but then they do say that punctuality is the politeness of kings). I was cheerfully met, so far so good, but then imagine my dismay when, as I was escorting them through the building to their private room, I was asked ‘when’s dinner?’
Inwardly my heart sank through the floor. Dinner? ARGH! But I smiled and said ‘here are some nibbles and wine and then later on we have a few more bits coming’
Be vague, buy yourself time and keep smiling, it will get you through many many things in life!!!!!
I then ran to Pret a Manger and picked up a pile of nice sandwiches, fruit and those nice brownie bars they do and artfully arranged it all on a big platter and brought it to them. I was a bit worried they’d be disappointed with the lack of pomp but they were actually delighted and very grateful. It doesn’t need to be bells and whistles if it’s delivered with a smile, and in general polite hungry people will eat anything. Also I'd imagine the Royal family generally only get given really fancy food and maybe it was a novelty to get a BLT and a Love Bar?
Rule number 1
Always make sure guests are fed and watered at a minimum with something to drink and nibble on. You know the saying ‘never work with children or animals’? I always add ‘or hungry people’ to that list.
Rule number 2
If you’re asked something out of the ordinary, or it transpires that there was an expectation you weren't accounting for, first buy yourself some time with a vague but reassuring line like ‘I’ll just check but I’m sure we can make something work’ and then think fast and find a solution. Presenting the air of knowing exactly what you’re doing and being totally unflappable will get you far. And eventually, after enough things like this happen to you, you will genuinely be unflappable because you'll have a pile of previous experiences to draw from.
There was then a second curve-ball to test my nerves to breaking point. Instead of leaving straight away as planned, they opted to stay for the after party! The tale of me trying to stuff 5 members of the Royal family into a service elevator to avoid the crowds is a tale for another day but again, they were very gracious about the whole thing and I think secretly saw it as a fun adventure.
I make jokes about these things now but at the time I was a bag of stress even though I didn't show it. I hope that by sharing stories like this and how I navigated through all these crazy situations it might help someone else do the same. If you have any stories of your own or questions comment below I'd love to hear them! xx