Help in everyday 'emergencies'
Great satisfaction is the result of lots of little gestures
The content of conferences and events, even operas, is ever-changing. What remains constant is the visitors' need to be attended to and looked after.
The more people that are brought together, the bigger the challenge of making them all happy. Elisabeth Dünser, head of Audience Services, is an expert in fulfilling visitors' wishes and in dealing with everyday mishaps and hitches.
The Audience Services office in Bregenz Festival House probably has no equal. The entire rear wall is glazed and affords an unobstructed view of Lake Constance and a sizeable chunk of the Great Wall of China – the stage sculpture for the current Bregenz Festival production that in no time at all became the defining image of the festival globally, as have all the other lake stage sets in the past.
The view reminds Elisabeth Dünser that preparations for this summer's Bregenz Festival with Puccini's opera Turandot will soon commence. And once again she'll take charge of 100 staff, mainly students, whose job is to look after the audience. "Nessun dorma" (None may sleep) isn't just the opening line of the famous aria that will ring out from the stage, but it's also the motto that Elisabeth Dünser will ask her staff to keep in mind. Being attentive to the visitors is the name of the game. So that everything runs smoothly. Afterwards there will be tales to tell about curious incidents of the kind that always happen when thousands of people gather and fill the auditorium for an evening. There's always someone whose food doesn't agree with him/her or who is for some other reason indisposed. One person needs some medicine, for another maybe a new T-shirt is enough – the sort of things that happen to people and it's perfectly okay to talk about. Visitors can rest assured, says Elisabeth Dünser, that remedies and repairs will be found. For instance, a technician is always on hand with a portable electric screwdriver to deal with any minor but potentially disastrous damage. And not only during the festival, as broken heals are a classic calamity at all times of year. In fact there's hardly a congress where some young lady does not overestimate her ability to wear high heels for a whole day. If you're able to hand a lady in this desperate state a pair of ballet flats, you will see what genuine relief is. An emergency box containing adhesives, tools, stitching equipment etc. is always ready to hand.
Apropos stitching, Elisabeth Dünser remembers an amusing story about a wardrobe malfunction. One day a man attending a big corporate event came to the wardrobe, handed over his coat and said, "A stitch has come loose there on the back. Could you fix it for me?" The wardrobe staff knew the gentleman in question, were well familiar with his sense of humour and knew he wasn't being serious. But they didn't want to miss the chance to see his completely dumbfounded expression when he came to collect his coat and found it perfectly re-stitched.
At Kongresskultur Bregenz since 2001. Director of Audience Services. Also coordinator of firefighting and rescue services.