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The art of saying goodbye

Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Over the years, I seem to have acquired a reputation for being able to bring events to a timely close and many of my colleagues have asked me what techniques I use.  This skill is something I find difficult to define as I realise I do it instinctively.

Here I am again; duty manager for a party which is programmed to end at midnight and it is now 11.40 pm.  I have told the catering team that last orders from the bar must be taken by 11.45 to allow drinking up time.  I have remembered to tell the DJ to wind up by midnight and he is keen to finish on time.  The party is still in full swing although about half of the guests have left to catch the last train. I check to see if the organiser is still present.

Organisers it seems come in many forms, especially once they have had a few drinks.  When you approach them to remind them that the bar is about to close, they can either sober up immediately, say they are aware of the time and offer to usher out their guests.  Or, they will beg me to allow them to carry on oblivious to the impact running over has on the venue team and to which I have to politely but firmly say ‘no’.

So, how do I bring the party to a close without creating a lot of bad feeling? Having been present throughout the event, people already know that I am someone ‘official’ and so often it can be enough to stand near a group of people and on seeing me they often say rhetorically ‘are you throwing us out?’.  Sometimes I find I have to be a little more obvious, apologise and say something like ‘may I invite you to think of finishing up now’.  By now, the caterers have cleared the bar and are collecting all the dirty glasses and the DJ is packing up.  From then on it is a case of going from group to group reminding them that the event has now drawn to a close and invite them to think of going home or moving on elsewhere for a drink.  And so, like a vulture, I circle the room gradually becoming more and more insistent until they become fed up of the sight of me and decide to leave.

Of course, if the hardened party goers choose to ignore me and my increasingly blunt requests to leave, I have the ultimate sanction of gradually bringing up the lights.  Nothing kills an atmosphere as effectively as a full complement of lights and like insects suddenly exposed in the full glare of lamps, they scurry away into the night.

There is a very fine line to be walked between being effective and being rude, and only experience of engaging with people in many situations has taught me the right way to approach a group of people and have the desired effect of them leaving.  Sometimes, it is appropriate to ask people to leave as the party is now over.  Some people can be quite rude, but I remind myself that it’s not me personally they’re having a go at but what I represent, ie the party pooper, the spoilsport who is ending a good night’s event.  Humour is often a good way of being polite but firm with clients.  I have even been tempted on occasions (although never actually done it) to sing the lines from the Gloria Gaynor song;

Go on, now go! Walk out the door! Don’t turn around now as you’re not welcome any more

But they might well come back with the refrain from one of Gloria’s other songs

I never can say goodbye, no no no

I find that fifteen minutes after the agreed finish time is usually enough time to clear a room. Sometimes the parting can be ‘sweet sorrow’ but sometimes it can leave a bitter after-taste if not handled well and therefore being able to quickly and efficiently clear a room after an event is a skill well worth acquiring.