There was a certain irony in having a power cut at the start of a conference where the word ‘cut’ would be used with alarming frequency. But so it was at the British Chambers of Commerce Annual Business Conference, event held at Church House, just round the corner from the House of Commons.
The event was organised by the Chamber staff themselves after years of contracting the job out to an event management company and they couldn’t have been thrown in at the deep end in quite such an alarming manner. I arrived at the venue at 8.45 to find the place in darkness and mild panic ensuing behind the registration desk as torches were used to locate badges. Apparently the whole area had suffered a power outage and ‘somebody somewhere’ was working feverishly to get it back on before the event kicked off at 9.40.
Thankfully the main hall, a wonderful oak lined circular room, had a domed glass ceiling that left enough light in for delegates and speakers to see each other. The TV crews were not so fortunate and without power for cameras and lights, they struggled. Thankfully, the latest generation of broadcast cameras are sensitive enough to see in the dark and all was not lost. It was also something of a blessing that the room had been designed before the days of microphones and amplifiers and the acoustics were good enough for the Conference Chair Sue McGregor (radio 4) to welcome delegates and introduce Director General, David Frost without her having to shout.
To a relieved round of applause the lights came on and the PA system burst into life half way through David Frost’s opening remarks and just in time for George Osborne – you would almost think it had been planned.
The episode was a salutary lesson for event organisers who need to plan for all contingencies. How many consider what they would do if there was no power? Who would have thought to pack torches for the registration staff or install back up batteries for emergency lights. Thankfully I never heard a single delegate complaining, I guess most people realise that some things are beyond the control of even the best organisers and just get on with it as best they can.
Pictures of the event can be seen here