Fyre Festival Event Planning Lessons

Even though the failed Fyre Festival took place (or rather, didn’t) in 2017, it’s still very much the talk of the town. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that Netflix and Hulu recently released documentaries, exploring what really happened. (I mean, how does a heavily promoted event just NOT happen…with attendees being kept in the dark the whole time?)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Fyre Festival, here’s what basically happened. (Note: This is a very summed-up version.) The Fyre Festival was marketed as a luxury music festival. It was supposed to take place in the Bahamas (nice, right?) and attendees were promised a VIP experience. We’re talking luxury villas, gourmet food, yacht packages – the whole nine yards.

Only…when attendees actually showed up, there was none of that. The “luxury villas” were actually leftover hurricane tents, and the “gourmet food” turned out to be cheese and bread. Seriously, that was it! (See pic below.)

Fyre Festival Food

Not exactly luxurious.

As an event planner, you may be CRINGING at the thought of this, but the one good thing that came out of it? The rest of us can learn several lessons. For example…

Lesson #1: When you set expectations, you HAVE to follow through.

Part of marketing an event is “setting the stage;” highlighting what attendees will experience once they get there. The setting, the meals, the entertainment, etc. But whatever you promise, you MUST deliver on. (Otherwise, you’re bound to have some pretty unhappy attendees.)

With the Fyre Festival, attendees were promised villas. Instead, they received tents – flooded tents, for that matter! They were also promised certain entertainment – Blink-182, for example. But Blink-182 backed out prior to the actual event (for not having the stage and equipment they were promised), and attendees were never notified of that change. (Blink-182 did make a statement via social media, but nothing was ever directly communicated from the festival organizers to the attendees…which is a BIG problem.)

Now we get it: When it comes to event planning, things happen. Maybe the space you booked flooded. Or the catering company you planned to use unexpectedly changed management, which then impacted the menu you had set. These things are out of your control, but it’s still up to you to communicate those changes to your attendees – and via your marketing materials – as soon as possible. Manage expectations along the way. Trust us, transparency plays a BIG role in event planning success.

Lesson #2: Respect social media comments.

You likely promote your event on social media, and hopefully, you get some engagement from that too – likes, comments, shares, etc. But as we all know, not all social media interactions are positive. Every once in a while, a negative comment (or comments) will surface. But unless that comment is spam or completely inappropriate, it’s really a best practice to leave that comment there and respond gracefully.

What you DON’T want to do is what the organizers of the Fyre Festival did: They deleted negative comments and even reasonable questions. Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, they disabled commenting on their posts. That sends the message that they really don’t care what people and interested parties have to say.

Social media invites engagement, so you have to be welcoming of that engagement, even if it’s negative. (The good news is, those negative interactions are usually few and far between.)

Lesson #3: When something goes awry, take responsibility and apologize.

We already talked about how with event planning, things can always pop up. And sometimes, those things don’t always leave your attendees thrilled. But in addition to notifying your attendees and being completely transparent, you also need to take responsibility and apologize (even if it was something out of your control).

Managers of the Fyre Festival did NOT do this. Once the event became a huge bust – and it was clear to everyone that it was a bust – the organizers of the event finally made a statement, but it wasn’t exactly apologetic OR entirely true:

“Due to circumstances out of our control, the physical infrastructure was not in place on time. At this time, we are working tirelessly to get flights scheduled and get everyone off of Great Exuma and home safely as quickly as we can. … The festival is being postponed until we can further assess if and when we are able to create the high-quality experience we envisioned.”

As you can imagine, the fact that the organizers’ statement wasn’t very empathetic caused even more anger among attendees. Plus, many of those things WERE in their control, they simply didn’t deliver on them.

The Fyre Festival organizers would have been a lot better off had they just apologized, taken full responsibility, and done whatever needed to be done to make amends among disappointed attendees.

So there you have it. The infamous 2017 Fyre Festival. Pretty crazy, huh?

Now let’s talk about event planning success. You already know what NOT to do, but what types of things SHOULD you do to make your event a huge hit? We’ve got some tips! In our Complete Guide to Event Planning, we dive into best practices for planning and promoting your event, engaging your attendees onsite, keeping the excitement going post-event, and more! Check it out below!