I once worked on an event at a major zoo, to raise money for their conservation work in Africa. They are an amazing organisation and I love animals, this was great fun to be a part of. We had a famous chef create a vegetarian menu, all the table centers were zero waste and we had a children’s choir performing a new, specially commissioned piece of music during the reception-a world premiere. I was understandably very concerned with the welfare and safeguarding of the children, making sure they were looked after and didn't get eaten by lions (plus one of them had a nut allergy which terrified me) and was very focused on this element.
The music was accompanied by 4 musicians playing big drums in a tribal rhythm. A week before the event I had a call from one of the zookeepers who alerted me to the fact that the reception area was right next door to where the baboons lived, and the baboons would not appreciate the load drumming after their bedtime (which was late afternoon when it got dark, this being in November). So the world premiere of this piece of music being sung by a children’s choir could not go ahead. My heart sank and a vague unwelcome thought of ‘I won’t need that epi pen after all’ drifted through my head.
I asked if there was anything we could do to make it still go ahead, what workarounds were there? Could we move the reception somewhere else? No. Could we take the drums out? No. Could we play the baboons music and drums every day between now and the event, louder and louder to get them used to it so that on the night it didn’t bother them? Yes! So that’s what we did. Those amazing keepers played music to the baboons every night little by little and they got used to it and then on the night we were fine. The baboons were happy, the children were happy, no one went into anaphylactic shock and we all lived to tell the tale. And raised a great sum for the organisation.
In the days of risk assessments we all have to try and think up the worst case scenarios and plan for every eventuality but this issue honestly hadn’t crossed my mind at all. But it should have. We were in a zoo, and their prime concern was the animals they look after and it simply hadn't occurred to me that they might object to loud music after their bedtime even though I frequently am driven insane by my neighbors doing exactly that. My learning here was...who are your VIP’s. Who are your major stakeholders. Who is affected by this event outside of those directly involved? Bear* in mind they might not be human. And plan accordingly.
*I am 35 and still uncertain of when to use bear and bare...but given the context of this post I chose to use bear
Want help with an unexpected issue or have a tale like this of your own? Comment below I'd love to hear from you.