As event professionals, we are constantly confronted by tough issues. Keeping costs down, proving ROI, and resolving one issue after another fill our days leading up to and after a big event. Despite seemingly non-stop challenges and hard decisions, that’s what we signed up for! It takes a very special person, with a unique attitude and skill set, to be successful in the event industry. One of the key skills you’ll need to have to be successful is knowing when and how to shield your clients from the tough stuff.
We work in an unpredictable industry – and it is our job to keep that stress from affecting the people we serve – our clients. Below I have outlined several ways to successfully be a professional bodyguard for your client and included some of my past experiences:
Communication is absolutely imperative to a successful relationship with your client, but there is a thin line between keeping them informed and stressing them out. Be wise about what you tell your client, especially when the information is not positive. There are numerous instances where it may be best to hold your tongue with your client such as when you know, from experience, that the issues at-hand will work themselves out naturally before the event. Why cause undue stress for your client when you are confident that an issue will be resolved without having to involve them?
One of my particular cases involved the always-changing travel of a keynote speaker. He was a high profile, always-in-demand speaker (often tapped by foreign governments for crisis help). The speaker had changed his itinerary at least three times before settling on a direct flight that would put him in the event city a few hours prior to his presentation. I knew that sharing every change with the client would only cause her to panic, so I held on to the flight information until I knew it was completely final. Over-communication is a sure way to expose your client to anxiety, which could have been preventable by simply controlling the right balance of necessary information.
Similar to the previous tip on what you communicate, how you communicate is equally as important. Framing a message is everything. How you present information, especially complicated or confusing information, presents another opportunity to invaluably protect your clients. Always couple a recommended solution when presenting a problem. Present no more than three solution options to any issue that arises and then reinforce why you recommend a certain course of action. When framing the issue, be sure to demonstrate your understanding of the issue, while making it crystal clear that the issue will be resolved entirely.
Another recent example involved communicating to a client that the hotel they had booked for a speaker was not master billed. The hotel had originally caused the problem, but to prevent the client from panicking the issue was framed very specifically. The phone call opened with an appropriate greeting, followed by a simple explanation of what had occurred along with the recommended solution to resolve it. Keeping the language simple and objective is very important. The client was informed what would be required to get the payment current. This approach did not provide the client enough time to stress out and it protected them from incurring any extraneous work, had the situation been handled differently.
Always Serve as the Intermediary Between Vendors and Clients
Vendors, although absolutely essential to most events, can inadvertently cause a ton of stress to your client. There is an easy fix to this issue: step in and stay in the middle. You should be the main point of contact for vendors and talent (e.g. speakers and VIP). This step ensures that no one gives or receives misinformation or creates any, unnecessary misunderstandings. Always advocate for your client and shield them from the stress of the tiny details that vendors often obsess over to accomplish their tasks.
Essentially, serve as a buffer between the client and vendor.
Recently, a client was having an out-of-country event. Shipping was a major concern and a ton of back-and-forth conversations with the vendor were required to make sure that everything went as planned. This is a prime example of when it’s best to step in and work with the vendor directly – to shield your client from unnecessary minutiae while ensuring that everything is tracked and arrives at its destination properly. This eliminates the need to have the client field vendor calls and emails and to bog themselves down in details which have already being managed separately. Sometimes the best rewards of providing superior service is simply knowing the time drags, headaches and hassles that you are protecting your client from enduring.
Think Ahead & Be Assertive
Part of being a great advocate and protector for your client is being proactive – not reactive. You should be getting answers to questions that haven’t been asked yet. Your experience provides you with insight and forethought that will protect your client from issues that they would never see coming. The best way to avoid unnecessary issues and to shield clients from panic is to simply have everything already taken care of before the client thinks to ask about it.
One specific example occurred when a client had a very high-profile speaker at an event. The client hadn’t thought through the details of requiring a green room, so the obvious solution involved proactively stepping in and handling that directly with the hotel. Once all the details were in place, the client was simply notified that this too had been properly handled. These actions saved the client from embarrassment onsite and undue stress prior to the event. Be proactive and take things off your client’s plate whenever possible, as your client will greatly appreciate that level of service and added protection.
Don’t Disappear After An Event
Good event professionals know that protecting your client extends far beyond the event date. After the event occurs, your client will still need you to advocate for them – especially when reconciling the bills and wrapping up all logistics. Similar to tip number three above, there will undoubtedly be some issues with vendors that arise following the event. Whether it is billing or damaged equipment/materials, the client will be looking for answers. As the event planner, you should field any questions or concerns from your client, then assist with neatly wrapping up everything. At this point, you will also want to learn about your performance and solicit any, additional feedback. This step will help you build a great working relationship with your client and will help you to serve them better in the future.
Lastly, you may not think that an event professional equates to being a bodyguard, but it absolutely does. Your client is depending on you to take the heat and protect them from the tough stuff that inevitably comes up during any event. Use these tips to make your client feel secure and trusting of you.