Why Ceremony is a waste of time - and Money

Why Ceremony is a waste of time

I’m writing this the day after watching the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics. I know many people worked hard to make it an almost flawless performance involving thousands of performers and complex technology. They did a great job, but why?

First I have to admire the people who create these spectacles. Finding the themes and drilling the foot soldier performers and using the vast stadia is something I would find hard to do. Which is probably why I’ve never been asked.

It reminded me of a school or amateur dramatic production. Not because the performances were below par, quite the opposite, but because there was a need to get as many bodies as possible to fill the stage whenever possible. At one point an exquisite ballerina from the Bolshoi Ballet was performing … surrounded by 800 fellow performers. All in fabulous costumes with carefully rehearsed lighting and specially recorded music. I’m sure she would have looked stunning on stage, but in an athletics stadium shot by a camera 500 meters away with a sports commentator reading the notes prepared by government whitewash propagandist. Even Putin looked bored. Or does he look like that all the time?

There are parallels in the events we all produce, and lessons we can learn.

Anything with the word “ceremony” attached needs to be treated carefully. Yes, there are anthropological reasons why we need ceremonies in our life when we mark those beginnings, endings and achievements but keep it short. The Olympic events – not just this one – veer between those ceremonial moments and pieces of theatrical presentation. To my mind, they are doomed. The ceremonial is too long, the theatrical is in the wrong venue and it all costs far too much.

If any of your events contain an element you can be described as ceremonial, then treat it very carefully. It’s very important, but it does not drive the whole thing. Make it short but impactful and then get on with the business of the day. In the right venue.

This post also appears on the Conference News Blog


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