Charlotte Flach
Jan 28, 2019

What planners can learn from the failed Fyre Festival

The Fyre documentary on Netflix shows us how planners can avoid their event becoming a fellow contender for the worst ever.

An official promotional still from Fyre Festival
An official promotional still from Fyre Festival

The words Fyre Festival have become synonymous with PR disaster, with many event planners  shaking their heads at the poor planning and execution. A new Netflix documentary charts how the event turned into a catastrophe of epic proportions.

(Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen the documentary, it didn't go well)

Infrastructure is everything

The stunning Bahamian island of Great Exuma was chosen as the location for Fyre Festival because of it’s sunny climate, white sand beaches, and emerald waters. But no matter how Instagrammable the destination, your event could turn into a logistical nightmare without the proper infrastructure.

You can avoid problems such as finding proper accommodation, food and water supply, and transport difficulties by working with a local DMC. 

Sticking to budget is key

When the festival began to run out of money in its planning stages, organiser Billy McFarlane badgered investors for more money and started selling luxury packages for experiences and accommodation that didn’t actually exist.

Any event planner will know that in a landscape of squeezed budgets, demanding more money, especially once the brief gets going, just isn’t going to fly. This is why setting the ROI before the budget makes sense.

Social media can make or break you

Promo pictures of top supermodels frolicking in the ocean and sunbathing on yachts meant that most of the tickets for Fyre Festival sold out in 48 hours. But it was a Twitter account with only 400 followers that took down the whole festival after it tweeted a picture of the first nights ‘dinner’ which was bread, sliced cheese and some sad-looking salad.

Incidents like this show that it’s vital to manage your social media presence and have a solid strategy in place.

Five star doesn’t always mean five star

Fyre promised festival-goers beach houses and luxury yurts. The reality was guests staying in water-logged hurricane tents, fighting over toilet paper and having to scramble for luggage being thrown off the back of trucks in the dark.

Different destinations have different standards, Jade Langston from Top Banana reminds us. Things such as service levels, quality expectations and health and safety standards should never be assumed.

No tech for tech's sake

Does your event need tech? And is the tech you’ve chosen right for it? Wearable tech wristbands were introduced as a cashless payment method for Fyre, but the lack of wireless connectivity on the remote Great Exuma meant that they would have been rendered completely non-functional. No round of jaegerbombs then.

Save yourself the embarrassment of dud apps and arbitrary bells and whistles by understanding that less is more when it comes to event technology.

Prepare for crisis

The organisers of Fyre should have taken a leaf out of planners’ books by having a contingency plan in place when the festival (unsurprinsingly) went south. Tents were looted and set on fire as attendees went all Lord of the Flies. Angry unpaid workers meant that the potential for violence and hostage situations became a reality.

Event managers spend months perfecting an event to make sure everything runs smoothly on the day. Despite this, a crisis plan is vital, because sometimes, circumstances will be out of your control.

Make sure you have the right people

Ultimately Fyre was brought to its knees by a lack of expertise. The founder was inexperienced with organising music festivals; there was no joined up working between on-site and office-based teams; and the advice of experts brought in to handle different elements of the process was ignored time and again.

Joined up working between all parties involved and the right people looking after the right tasks is key to preventing your event being memorable...for all the wrong reasons.


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