At One Smooth Stone, we travel the world to produce outstanding events for our clients, and along the way, we take time to appreciate the places we visit. In recent weeks, we’ve been blogging about our experiences on the road whether we’re managing events in New Delhi or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In today’s post, One Smooth Stone Vice President Steve Koppel discusses his personal discoveries in Prague while producing an event for an association’s European meeting. As Steve relates, Prague offers plenty of historic charm and hip places to take a break from the demands of event management. Check out our interview, and learn more about Steve on our website.
What was the nature of your work in Prague?
We were producing an event for an association’s European meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to combine education with networking. Attendees heard presentations from people in the industry and met with suppliers and peers in order to do business and make connections. This was our second year working with the client. In 2014, we managed the client’s European meeting in Istanbul.
What did you need to do to prepare?
Although we had worked in this hotel before, it was important to do a site visit and meet with the local AV supplier. It was important to meet with them ahead of time to understand their capabilities and look at their equipment.
One of the reasons you want to meet the local crew ahead of time is to communicate face to face. It’s one thing to be told that your crew speaks English. But you need to hear with your own ears how proficient the on-the-ground team is. Our shows are fast paced. A crew must understand many cues and act on them instantly. When the producer says, “Stand by Electric 2,” the people on the receiving end of these instructions need to understand the English short-handed lingo. If just one person on the crew has poor command on English, the entire show can be compromised. You don’t want to find out you have a communications problem when it’s show time.
In the advance meeting for our event, I discovered the equipment was great, and the crew’s command of English was passable. After meeting with the team, I decided that on the day of the event, I’d need to adjust the way we communicate with them. For instance, a minute or so before I needed someone to act on a command, I’d let them know, “This is a long stand-bye for VT2 with preset 12. Be ready.”
It’s also essential to make sure everyone on the team understands the client’s expectations. For example, here we are in one of the iconic cities of Europe, but the client did not want the event space to look we were in Prague. They wanted a clean, professional space that would look like any other presentation room around the world.
Did you have any expectations or perceptions of Prague before you visited?
I have some friends who are seasoned travelers who told me I would love it. I had 2 half days during my trip when I had time to myself. We intentionally used that time to get out and explore. I have been to a lot of places, but Prague is at the top of the list of European cities with a strong mix of culture, environment and people.
Everyone in Prague has a story to tell. We hired a guide and went on a walking tour of Prague. He had left Czechoslovakia in the 1970s to escape Communism and lived in Portland, Oregon, for more than 20 years before moving back to the Czech Republic after the fall of Communism. I got a sense of a spirit of newness in Prague. There are generations of people who lived there who saw their world turn a complete a 180-degree from an authoritarian ruling structure, where the government controlled everything, to a democratic, capitalist environment, where if you have the will you can make life what you want it to be.
Just walking around, our tour guide would refer to locations that play into some historical event that happened in the 1300s. There are not many places you can go in the world to visit a place that figures into history 700 years ago, and these structures are still standing. There is such history that goes beyond the comprehension of most Americans. The American sense of what’s old and historic is new to people in Prague.
Did any particular sites that jump out as being memorable?
One night we had dinner at a rooftop restaurant in the Old Town Square. You could see all of Prague from where we ate. You could see a castle on the other side of the river and a hillside up the right. We had a full meal, drinks, and wine, for $40 a person — an incredibly affordable price. And the basement of the hotel we visited a really cool bar, the Black Angel’s bar. It was all brick, with arched entrances. You could walk through an arch and you find yourself in an alcove with five or so seating areas with chandeliers and sconces. There was no photography allowed.
And on our last night, we left the main part of the city and took a subway to a non-touristy area that might be akin to the Brooklyn or Lincoln Park of Prague. I went on Yelp and found a restaurant that was almost was like a brasserie. Interestingly, when I told the host I had found his restaurant on Yelp, he expressed surprise. He said they don’t use Yelp in Prague. They have their own app for checking out restaurants.
The food was great. They had everything from fresh fish to homemade pastas, meats, cheeses, and vegetables and fantastic desserts. We all had Pilsner, too. During the time I was in Prague, I had only one meal, goulash, which might be considered traditional to the area.
How did the event go?
It was great. We had a very happy client. The partner we worked with definitely knew what they were doing. They were an in-house provider at a hotel but also for other hotels, too. We had a history with them because we had worked with them elsewhere. Having a good partner makes all the difference when you work in an unfamiliar place.
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