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The other day, I happened to catch a few episodes of the Spike Network’s Bar Rescue. For those of you who aren’t much into the network, Bar Rescue is a reality TV series (bear with me here) hosted by Jon Taffer, president of the Nightclub and Bar Media Group and self-proclaimed Bar Science expert. The show centers on Taffer’s efforts to bring ailing bars back from the brink of failure; a process which often results in him butting heads with owners, managers, and employees, many of whom are completely unaware of their own incompetence. Much of the entertainment value, as with most reality TV programs, arises from the drama between Taffer and the bar employees.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what Bar Rescue has to do with event management. The answer to this question is actually very simple:

Bar Science – literally, the science behind running a successful bar or nightclub – shares a great deal in common with event management.

In both cases, even the littlest details are extremely important. A bar needs to cater directly to whatever demographic it’s trying to serve. Everything – from the type of drinks served to how customers are greeted and treated right down to the music, lighting, and décor – has an impact on whether or not an establishment is successful in doing so. As such, a bar owner that doesn’t understand their clientele is one who’s destined to fail.

Of course, even a bar that has the right look and atmosphere might fail if it’s not properly laid out. This is one detail Taffer focuses on a great deal in Bar Rescue: most of the venues he visits fall victim to a woefully inadequate floor plan. A good bar needs to be designed so its staff can work quickly, efficiently, and effectively, without getting in the way of the customers.

Another detail that Taffer touts as extremely important is that the manager be active and charismatic. They need to respect and work alongside employees, make the customers feel welcome, and generally ensure that everything runs like a well-oiled machine. In short, they’re the ones responsible for taking charge and seeing to the logistics of a venue’s operation.

Proper security is also incredibly important. The angriest you’ll ever see Taffer is when a bar owner or manager fails to make their customers safe. In one episode, they continued serving a woman liquor when she was clearly over the legal limit, then let her leave with her keys; it was a fiasco that ended with her in handcuffs and Taffer tearing into the employees responsible. The owner of a bar – like it or not – is generally legally liable for the wellbeing of their guests.

All of this probably sounds very familiar – just as it should. As an event management professional, you’re faced with many of the same challenges as someone running a bar. This is particularly true if you’re planning to serve liquor at an event or conference.

Let’s compare:

  • You need to know what demographic you’re trying to serve, and tailor your venue to suit their tastes and needs.
  • You need to plan things out as to keep your guests engaged and entertained and moving through their itineraries smoothly.
  • You need to treat your volunteers, staff and partners with dignity and respect, while at the same time ensuring that everyone’s pulling their weight.
  • You need to see to security, to keep everyone involved safe.

And last, but certainly not least, you need to be a charismatic leader, encouraging your team to do its best work and keeping your quests engaged on a personal level, showing you have an intimate understanding of what everyone wants out of their experience.

To be honest, “Bar Science” is more of a buzz-phrase. At the end of the day, it ultimately boils down to your understanding of people, logistics, and economics. The skills taught by bar science are inarguably vital skills for management professionals of all types; the discipline is most definitely worth looking into as an event planner. Who knows? Maybe its time to grab drink, watch a few episodes and take notes!