And they all left happily ever after…

Eventista here, and I’ve had endings on my mind a lot of late (no, not of the romantic sort).

When I was a baby eventiste, I worked in a restaurant for a gentlemen who was obsessed with all of us saying “good night” and “thank you” whenever a guest left.  It was so ingrained in us that often to this day, and to my companions’ severe embarrassment, I’ll say it to people leaving a restaurant where I am dining.  Turns out maybe my boss wasn’t that crazy after all.

In Tom Peter’s wonderful new book, The Little Big Things (he also wrote the pivotal In Search Of Excellence in 1982), he cites results from a study by a Nobel prizewinner about our memories and how selective they are, “No matter how extended an event (party, commercial transaction), we form our view and make our evaluation based – with dramatic skew – on the most intense moments and the final moments.”

Mr. Peters continues that hard data supports this “final moment” evidence: “We might attend a brilliant four-hour dinner party, yet three months later only remember that two guests exchanged heated remarks on the way out.”

Wow!  Think of the implications to us in the event world if it’s true that a sub-standard dessert can take down an entire five-star dining experience.  It means that an extravagant party favor given to a departing guest would mean very little, if minutes later they can’t get their car out of the lot or the garage attendant is surly.  It means that no matter how breathtakingly beautiful the ceremony was, if the exit from the wedding many hours later takes guests through the same room, but now it’s half broken-down and the busboys are having dinner there, that’s the image that will remain.

The same boss would never let us strip a tablecloth until the very last guest had left the dining room.  It used to drive us all batty, particularly when it was in the wee hours of the morning and we knew that by then they were so loaded we could have put the tablecloths on their heads and they wouldn’t have known the difference. In retrospect, maybe he was right about that too.

Do you pay as much attention to the end of an event as you do to the beginning?