Tough lessons learned at Oprah’s Lifeclass in Toronto

Let me preface this by saying I’m not a rabid Oprah fan.

That said, when my mom first got lucky in the NYC ticket lottery, I was completely onboard to visit NYC and see Oprah’s Lifeclass (for free!) at Radio City  Music Hall. Unfortunately, she ended up fracturing her foot and we were unable to make the trip to NYC for the weekend. Luckily, or so we thought, tickets had just gone onsale for Oprah’s Lifeclass in Toronto! Although the Emerald and Executive tickets had sold out (~$300-$500), we were happy to pay ~$200/each for “General” tickets. In what would become hugely ironic, my mom said, “There are only two small sections in front of us – I’m sure the seats will still be great!”.

Here’s how my Oprah experience played out:

Top 3 things wrong with Oprah’s Lifeclass in Toronto:

  1. Lack of crowd control, logistics and organizationWhere were the volunteers and security telling us what was going on? Where was the designated line-up? Better yet, why was there such a large line-up at all? It amazes me that, with all the other acts that come to Toronto, it was only Oprah who couldn’t find a way to get everyone into the venue on time and without huge lineups. Line-cutting was also rampant and there were reports of fights breaking out in the indoor holding areas.
    Next time: If the lineup is inevitable, find a way to control the crowd
  2. Venue choiceMTCC is not set up for shows like Oprah. Only those at the very front, paying about $500 and those at the very back paying $50 got their money’s worth. They got what they paid for (proximity and, I’d assume, the experience of being in the same room as Oprah). For the rest of us, we may as well have been watching at home, since we had to rely solely on the large screens to see anything at all.
    Next time: try someplace like the ACC or even the Rogers Centre. Even if you’re far away, being able to see the stage somehow makes that suck less.
  3. Lack of ticket price graduation
    To hear that tickets ranged from $500-$50, one would assume a larger difference between the seats for someone who paid $200 and someone who paid $50. This wasn’t the case.
    Next time: have more ticket levels. Although my seats were terrible, I probably would have felt less terrible about them if I’d paid less. Instead, I knew that the person incredibly close to the front paid the same as me, way at the back.

Overall, my experience was really tainted by both the line-up process and my eventual location in the venue. I wish that the Oprah team had thought about the experience of the show rather than the potential for revenue when planning it. Although other venues in Toronto might have resulted in lower ticket sales due to less seating, I’m sure that fans would have had an overall better experience.

PS. If you’re going to encourage people to use the “Free Wifi” to tweet and Facebook about the show, it might be a good idea to make sure it actually works. Back in the “cheap seats”, we had extremely spotty access to data coverage and the Lifeclass wifi didn’t work at all.

UPDATE: Oprah’s team got in touch. Find out what happened here.