How to Get Your Event Clients to Think Bigger

Are your clients in love with balloon sculptures and other out-of-date event trends? Want to bring them into this century and help them see all that their event could become? We have a few tips for you to assist your clients in thinking big.

Event planners think big. It’s often only our budgets that rein us in. But our clients must share that vision in order for us to be able to achieve what we’d like for their event. So how do you get them there? How can you help them think bigger, past balloons and photo walls as decor? It’s not an impossible challenge but does require some persuasion on your end.

How to Get Your Event Clients to Think Bigger

What Stops People From Thinking Big?

Helping your clients overcome their fears may be the first step to helping them think bigger. Most people who don’t think big fail to do so for a few reasons:

  • Fear
  • Lack of vision or creativity
  • Perceived need for approval

Fear

The first reason, fear, is easy to understand. Fear usually stems from a desire to avoid being criticized for your idea or a concern that something truly innovative won’t work. And if it doesn’t work, they’ll get blamed. No one wants to be the one who inches out on that treacherously small limb for the fruit but if it’s already on the table, it’s a nice treat.

In order to overcome a client’s fear, they need to trust you. They also have to feel they are in a secure position, whether that’s in the relationship (if it’s a personal party you’re throwing) or career (if it’s a corporate or industry event). This is something that is very hard for you to do for them so you’ll need to approach this in a slightly different way, which we’ll cover in the Tips section.

Lack of Vision or Creativity

Some people just aren’t that creative. It had to be said. That’s why you need to help them “see” your vision. If they’re not that creative, asking them to imagine your concepts, even if you’re weaving them beautifully, just won’t help. Instead, sketch them out. Provide Pinterest boards or ask them to create their own. Once they see what’s possible, they may be more apt to support it.

Perceived Need for Approval

In most companies if someone does a good job, follows directions, and seems motivated, they’ll likely be promoted. At some point, they may even be promoted into a decision-making role. But if that role came too quickly and they haven’t adapted to leadership, they may feel like it’s not their place to make a big sweeping decision and change the direction or vision of an event, even if you’re telling them that it’s the right thing to do. Which could bring us back to fear and the insecurity that usually accompanies it.

So how do you overcome these obstacles and help your client think on a Disneyland-style spectacular size?

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Tips for Getting Your Client to Think Bigger

As mentioned above, your clients are probably not thinking big when it comes to their events because of reasons that are much deeper than what you can directly help with. However, understanding where their self-placed limitations come from can help you assist them in navigating them and moving on.

  1. Show them ideas to help with motivation. Don’t just tell, show both visually and add in some conversations about return on investment (ROI) on events that offered bigger experiences.
  2. Give them homework. Ask them to show you something they like on the Interwebs. It’s the kind of thing they can do at home while watching TV but it should help them see all the possibilities that are out there. They can stop thinking of themselves as the Thanksgiving turkey on the block and start enjoying the success of others who have done similar things.
  3. Focus on one convert. If you’re working with a board or a management team, look for the person who seems most open to what you’re saying. Try to get them on board to help get others to see your point. No one wants to be the first to agree, so work on building consensus and it will take off.
  4. Show them Christmas future. Remember A Christmas Carol and the Ghost of Christmas Future? The future for Ebeneezer Scrooge was pretty bleak. Show your clients what the future of their events will be if you continue to host the same tired events. They’re not in the event industry, you are. It’s incumbent upon you to convey their audience’s expectations. People are looking for personalized experiences. Anything less than that doesn’t feel like it’s worth the time.
  5. Explain that they owe it to their organization. Chances are your clients are challenged to think big every day in their work. Even if it’s not part of their daily job, their organization may offer incentives for those who do. The only reason this doesn’t carry over into the event sphere is because they feel out of their comfort zone. Learn a little about what they do and liken their creative process in their job to what needs to be done here with the event.
  6. Help them become problem solvers. Some non-creative types don’t want to be creative and asking them to simply makes them more committed to not doing so. Give them a problem to solve instead of asking them to contribute to your creative vision. Give them statistics about the large percentage of people who long for an experience. Then ask how you’re going to provide that for them. They will either come up with a solution or suggest you do so. Either way, you’re moving in the right direction.
  7. Point out who the competition is. Years ago you were competing with a handful of other, mainly local for the most part, events. Today, the competition is global. Make sure they are aware of who they are competing with and what these other organizations are offering attendees. Make sure they also realize that they are competing with doing nothing at all and that could be preferable to their idea of balloon decor.
  8. Give them a goal. When your clients master the skill of thinking big, they may want to think big just for the fun of doing that. But until then, their big thinking will feel more directed if it’s framed around the event goal. Do your best to tie it all together for them so they see reason behind this new way of thinking. Explain that the goal to increase attendance won’t just happen by doing everything the exact same as last time. Something must change. What will it be?
  9. Help them get comfortable with discomfort. Michael Port, author of Book Yourself Solid (an excellent read for the self-employed business person) and the Think Big Manifesto, says, “The best performers are the ones who take the biggest risks, and the performer who raises the stakes high enough is the one who is generally most compelling.” You can’t make a big impression while staying in your comfort zone. Growth requires leaving it and leaving it is the only way to create an event to remember. Let them know it’s going to feel uncomfortable but only until the final numbers come in.

Finally, when they start “thinking big” don’t be quick to shoot their ideas down. Applaud their efforts and creativity. That’s what’s important. Their big idea may not be something that fits into your vision but the fact they’ve broken out of the mold can be extremely liberating.

Getting Ready for Big Things

But it’s not all about exercises and ways to coax your clients into thinking big. Some of that has to come from you. Here’s what you need to be doing in order to work with clients who are ready for the big time:

As mentioned earlier, many people who are unable to think big or just want to do what was done last year feel this way because they are operating out of a place of fear. While you can’t erase their fear entirely because much of that may be due to things outside of your control like fear of losing a job or looking silly, but you can work to instill confidence in your own abilities and help build a trust where they will begin to listen to you as the event expert.

  • Exude confidence. You are presenting your professional opinion on the event. Your ideas and designs should be held in esteem because of that. Talk about the industry so your client understands that advice you are giving and the vision you have encapsulates all of your knowledge on what others are doing. Take the time to build that professional trust and they’ll be more likely to listen to your big ideas. Give them wishy-washy answers without statistics or past return on investment numbers and they’ll continue to think balloons are the ideal decor for their event.
  • Show that you’re willing to experiment. If you’re asking your client to have faith in your vision, make sure they understand that you’re open to new ideas too. If they have an idea for you, accept it graciously and show legitimate interest in it. They may have a different view of the event than you do or more insight into the audience and its needs.
  • Always be learning. If your client brings up a question or wants supporting evidence for something you don’t have, tell them you’ll get back to them and follow up. This shows the client they can count on you. You may not have all the answers immediately but you have a curious nature and want to learn.
  • Personalize your approach. Find out more about who your clients are (this is fairly easy on social media) and personalize your big idea approach. Are they numbers people? Come with the ROI proof they need to see. Are they naysayers? Let them have their points and then be ready for them.
  • Share what’s in it for them. Mitigating risk is one of the best things you can do to quell fear. Talk about end results of what will happen if they do embrace bigger ideas and if they don’t. Help them see this is not just marketing hype for the event but something that will help them be more successful.
  • Find other industry experts that are saying the same thing you are. They’re out there. Find them. Prove that this is a movement, not just a personal interest of yours. However, make sure you’re not undermining your own professionalism by bringing up others. Never bring in quotes and say that these people agree with you. That sounds like you’re justifying your own concerns. Instead, use them as examples of other people who are following the same protocols. This may help allay your clients’ fears that they will be the only ones and thus run the risk of failure.
  • Give past client examples. Share with them the success you’ve had with other clients who have gone through similar struggles. For the most effective examples use similar types of events and clients. This will make them feel more secure in the process.
  • Show the idea is big to them. Most people fear the unknown. Never make your client feel like your big idea suggestion is the complete unknown. Maybe they’ve never tried it, and so it’s a big idea to them, but not to the rest of the event world. It’s better to establish it as an industry best practice than something no one has ever done before. Every company wants to be Apple today but no one wants to be those guys putting together things in their parents’ basements hoping someone will buy one.

In Conclusion

It can be frustrating when you go into a client meeting only to have them shatter your big decor ideas for balloons. If you want to be associated with a successful event you have to get them thinking bigger. Doing so involves helping them overcome fear and other confidence issues and presenting yourself as the industry expert. Are you up for the challenge?

Additional Resources on Thinking Bigger

Want to Plan Better Events? Make Yourself Uncomfortable
How Expectations Management Can Make or Break Your Event
Think Big About Smaller Events
17 Quirky Event Seating Ideas
15 Ways Event Planners Can Brainstorm New Ideas
4 Fabulous Event Decor Ideas You’ll Want to Steal
15 Creativity Boosting Ideas for Event Profs

 

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Julius Solaris
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