aat’s event-organising skills were put to the test at the Guildford Escape Rooms. Toby, Rory, Hollie, Rob and George had 60 minutes to solve a series of puzzles in the interactive room. In order to succeed they would have to work together, communicate well and trust their instincts. These are all skills that they have to rely on to pull off successful events, only this time they wouldn’t be in familiar territory over at Newland’s Corner, they would be completely out of our comfort zone…

Hollie kicked things off with some ‘words of wisdom’: “everything we need to succeed is right here in this room”. Though (these very true) words were intended to inspire the team, we all looked rather blankly at each other before falling about laughing.

Keen not to waste another precious moment, ‘run sheet* master’ Rob brought some order to the otherwise chaotic strategy we had adopted to search for clues. Once we had collected a number of clues and some ideas for how best to use them, Toby was quick to start delegating tasks and make himself a coffee. Jokinggg (there was no coffee machine).

Soon into the game, we started to have that familiar feeling we get – normally around mid-January when the Surrey Half is just weeks away – when we realise the enormity of the situation that we have gotten ourselves into. We felt overwhelmed by the amount of work required to complete the unknown (but a seemingly large number) of tasks within a tight deadline. Right on cue, the niggling sounds of regret and worry then started to creep into our heads, but we were quick to remind ourselves that these are the unhelpful thoughts which we need to ignore. We also had to block out the unhelpful but hilarious chat from the escape room voiceover encouraging George to dance and distract us. Instead, we just about managed to concentrate on the task at hand and trusted that – just like at the events – no matter how tough it would get at times, there would always be some fun to be had along the way.

With information continuing to come in from all angles, this is when as a team we really rose to the challenge. This is the kind of team-work we do when we deliver an event. We rely on each other to individually take the lead on a single aspect of the puzzle, and trust that we can each be both responsible and capable of delivering the appropriate action in response.

To relate to that in event terms, it’s like receiving intel from marshals, medics, the timing team and each other, all at the same time. The nature of organising events like ours means that this usually always happens just a couple of minutes before the race is due to start. But the show must go on (!) so we have to be able to make critical decisions in seconds, update the rest of the team and remember that participants are always watching our every move. We have to trust the decisions that we make; and so long as we are making choices based on correct information, instinct and experience – we will make the right choice. But it takes skill and mental toughness to adopt this mindset in the heat of the moment.

Though we were working in sub-teams in different areas of the space, the ability to communicate well came naturally to us. For once we weren’t split up in the vast Hurtwood forest with limited phone signal (!!) so we embraced the opportunity to work together face-to-face. Time perception also seemed to come to us instinctively. There was no clock on display in the room, yet we somehow all managed to be in the right place at the right time. We all agree that we can only attribute this to years of experience of having to take preemptive action. You may hear Toby shouting “quick Rory help me get the gantry** up” or “quick Hollie the first runner is on the horizon!” but we are always just around the corner – promise! 😇

Following a set of complicated technical instructions was challenging though – or at least first. Our diligent intern George eagerly rose to the challenge and saved the day. Generally he – along with Rory and Rob – enjoyed the logic and number-based challenges, whereas Toby and Hollie preferred the visual-based challenges (no surprise there). But that said we all had to be able to adapt. Just like at the events, we had to be able to jump right into a new sub-team and work together.

The success of the task was definitely dependant on how well we could support the rest of the team. With 2 tasks left out of 6 and just 5 minutes to complete it in, ‘cool, calm and collected’ Rob could see that Hollie was beginning to panic, but was quick to reassure her that against all the odds he strongly believed that we would not fail.

Though a little chaotic at times, we pulled it together (dare we say as we always do!) and – in true aat fashion – still had time to spare to have a laugh.

We really can’t give much else away about the challenge because we don’t want to ruin it for you – we highly recommend that you go and give Guildford Escape Rooms a go for yourselves. Just make sure you remember all of the skills you’ve learned from helping out at aat-events!

*A document detailing a minute-by-minute account of an event plan.

** The inflatable start/finish arch.