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Life as an Event Planner has many pressures as well as many rewards. Here are some of the most common grumbles from #eventprofs and some suggestions for how to deal with them.
Short Lead Times
Lead times for some events, sectors and clients are becoming increasingly short, ramping up the pressure on Event Planners and often sending stress levels rocketing. Within reason tight deadlines can sometimes be a welcome challenge and an opportunity to focus and really deliver and excel but it can be a very fine line between healthy pressure and striving for the impossible!
In these circumstances it is important to be honest about what is actually achievable within the available time frame. Remember that even if you have super powers other people cannot work instantly and so you need to add in some slack to the timeline for response time from speakers, suppliers and others.
When lead times for an event are short this can have an impact on attendances too as the shorter the marketing period for the event the greater the number of potential attendees that will already have busy diaries and immoveable commitments.
It may be a case of prioritising the essentials if the event date is imminent and having a frank discussion with the client or your boss to let them know what is or isn’t realistic and the risks involved. Confirm what extra support and resources are available; it will need to be a team effort to pull out all the stops.
Never forget that saying no may actually be the best option if the deadline is unworkable or if the rewards of the project cannot sufficiently compensate for the demands.
If you do accept the contract every second really does count so ensure that you stay focused with these productivity hacks.
During the economic downturn we witnessed marketing budgets being slashed and as a knee-jerk reaction events were often the first to be crossed from the expenditure list. Those that remained committed to their event spend often shrunk their budgets considerably, reducing their offering or running events on a vastly reduced scale. Of course operating within vastly confined budgets doesn’t help #Eventprofs to put on the amazing experiences they have the skills and vision to deliver, but meeting your client or organisations budget is essential to ensure that you maintain their trust and therefore your loyal client base.
Sometimes you may just need stats and ROI of past events or other such ammunition to give your client or boss the confidence to #Defendthespend.
If the budget is simply not there you need to be creative with whatever you have to work with. How can your deliver the event and achieve all objectives with limited resources? Look at every budget item and ask “Is it essential?” Think about what the alternatives are. If you can save money in any area of the budget this can be reallocated elsewhere towards the items of highest priority.
At times like these your Event Planner contacts can be a life saver. What can you beg, borrow or steal from your trusted contacts? Can you call in a favour from any of your suppliers? How can you creatively repay them? Can you share and split costs with another event perhaps? This is where having loyal, longstanding relationships in the industry and the good turns you have done for others in similar circumstances are really crucial.
Lack of Innovation
Some clients (or Managers if you run events internally for your organisation) have the mind-set “we've always done it this way - why change?” which can be frustrating to forward thinking Event Planners eager to try out the latest event technology or simply shake up meeting design and do things a little differently or experiment a little. This resistance to change can be particularly evident in long running annual events, in certain sectors and events run by committee.
A recent study by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) in partnership with the International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality at Leeds Beckett University has suggested that the meetings industry lags in terms of innovation.
As an Event Manager you probably have numerous ideas big and small that you would like to see implemented within different projects you are involved with. For the best chance of success prioritise the top ideas and ensure your every suggestion has been well thought out, researched and costed, with clear examples before you pitch to your client/Manager. Explain clearly what the benefits would be, exactly how it would work and what it would mean for the event. Although this is no guarantee of getting a positive answer this will ensure that you have put forward the strongest case.
Don’t be disheartened if everything is knocked back in year one, if you deliver the event exactly to their wishes they may be more receptive to some of your suggestions in year two.
Every once in a while most #Eventprofs will encounter a difficult client or Manager. This may be someone that is deliberatively or unknowingly obstructive or someone with an ulterior agenda. Or on the other hand it could simply be a clash of personality and wills.
As an #Eventprof people skills are paramount and in these circumstances are likely to be tested to the max. Take a deep breath. Smile!
Try to minimise any flash points by being even more scrupulously efficient than ever. Outline requirements and deadlines at the start of the project and explain why this information is important to the success of the event. What seems obvious to Event Planners is often not to those without as much event experience.
Ask plenty of questions, try to dig deeper and find out what their concerns are and how you can put their mind at rest.
To cover yourself ensure you put everything in writing, be it progress updates, approaching deadlines, any differences in opinion and the outcome taken.
Ensure there is a clause in your contract terms and conditions about non delivery of information as this can have a crippling effect on any event.
Sometimes it will just take a little time to win trust and respect as long as you both want the best outcome in terms of a successful event. If it is a deeper rooted problem consider how to move forward with the best interest of the project. Should a colleague take the lead on the event going forward?
Onerous Tendering or RFP Process
The tendering process can eat up a massive amount of your precious time as an Event Planner. Consider each individual opportunity and how well it fits your expertise and timescales. Try to look critically at your chance of success. If you don’t meet the key criteria consider if it is best use of your time applying, as you will only have a slim chance of making the next stage?
If you decide to proceed there are some steps you can take to help this and future proposals. Take time to prepare some standard wording and documents which you can adapt for each application rather than starting from scratch each time.
Don't put it off thinking that the deadline seems a long time away - get started as soon as you can.
If you are not successful be sure to ask for feedback and find out which areas let you down so you can strengthen these elements for future.
Insufficient Ticket Sales
At some point in every Event Planners career most will have faced insufficient registrations and ticket sales. This is a nerve racking time for all involved – will those much needed sales come through? How long do you hold off before making a decision to go ahead or postpone or cancel the event? What does the small print of your contract with the venue say? What are the penalties of cancellation?
You know the value of your event and how great it will be but somehow the message just isn’t reaching enough of the right people. There are things you can do to boost ticket sales without spending more money and by thinking more about the process to attract more attendees.
It is always worth talking to your venue and suppliers and explaining the situation to see if there is any compromise in terms of minimum numbers or overall spend. Perhaps there is the flexibility to cut back on the refreshment or catering offering slightly or you can opt for a lower cost stage set and lights from the AV company to lower the break-even point?
Hopefully by taking the steps above you will have the best chance of moving into profit with your event.
As Event Managers it can seem our duty to achieve the impossible. As if the life of an Event Planner isn’t difficult enough already without these common additional pressures! However, if you accept these challenges then when you overcome them to deliver a successful event it can be all the more rewarding to reflect on the enormity of what you have achieved.
What are your biggest gripes and grumbles about being an Event Planner? Do you thrive on these challenges? What is your strategy to deal with these issues? I would welcome your thoughts in the comments below.