Event Planning: 6 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Clients

Difficult ClientsLast week, we discussed the challenges that event planners face when working with clients who aren't open to advice. What's the best way to deal with difficult clients? The event planning industry is slowly emerging from an over 3-year slump; everyone is interested in pleasing clients and building their businesses.

At the end of the day, it's the client who makes the final decision.

He who pays the piper, calls the tune.

It's easy to opt for pleasing the client at all costs to protect your stream of income. Is there a better way? I don't have a magic bullet but here are:

6 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Clients

  1. Speak up and express your concerns whether or not the client wants to hear them.
  2. Document your concerns in writing. (Warning: For this you will be labeled inflexible.)
  3. Don't just identify concerns. For every problem you identify, propose a number of solutions.
  4. Ensure that you get sign-off especially for courses of action you don't support. 
    (At least, if things fall apart, your concerns and your contact's decisions will be documented.)
  5. Share your expertise and do your best to make things work even if you don't support the decision(s).
  6. Hire interns and cultivate relationships with young event coordinators and planners who are just starting out and looking to gain experience. Then, if a client is clearly just looking for help with execution, offer the services of a less experienced member of your team. Clients will get the services of an enthusiastic young professional who can help them execute their vision without having to listen to the annoying "voice of experience." You'll keep the client happy and save them money as you can charge them a reduced rate.
What strategies would you add to this list?

Fasten your seat belt. We are in for a bumpy ride. Executives are under a lot of pressure. Many are afraid of losing their jobs and, as a result, they are becoming more hard-driving and demanding. In some cases, it's clouding their judgment.

We are also experiencing the biggest transfer of demographic corporate power in decades. In many ways, it's going to be fun. Event planners will have an opportunity to experiment and try some exciting new strategies and technologies they've been chomping at the bit to get their hands on for years. If your contact has moved to quickly without adequate training or support, it will be the war of the roses with some clients. It's best to find this out early. If it's not a good fit, there is nothing wrong with referring a client to a colleague or even a competitor with a style that matches the client's preferences more closely.

Photo Credit: Simon Blackley

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