A myriad of decisions and logistical details can make or break corporate events. Event planners can add tremendous value by sharing their expertise to ensure that events runs smoothly, safely and free from logistical glitches. As event planners are rarely the final decision makers, influence is a key skill for success in event planning.
It isn't always easy if you feel a client is making a mistake. How event planners react will have a major impact on whether or not they can persuade clients to make optimal decisions.
Influence Strategies to Avoid
The temptation is to jump in, point out the pitfalls of the proposed plan, problem-solve and give advice. We've all done it but, if the client has a high need for control, this approach will backfire. Playing the "I'm the expert" card and getting locked into a power struggle will surely derail the working relationship.
A More Effective Approach to Influence
- Start with the assumption that the client really does want the event to be a success.
In fact, the representative from the organization has even more of a vested interest in the success of the event than the event planner.
- Begin by listening.
Make an effort to really understand the client's goals, objectives and point of view.
- Summarize what the client has shared, articulate your understanding of the vision and give the client an opportunity to confirm that you have a clear understanding.
Sometimes clients have a strong vision for the event. Until event planners take the time to really hear the client and ensure that the client feels heard, attempts to change the direction of an event will be ineffective.
- If you have concerns, it's best not to jump in and share them right away.
If possible, indicate that you want time to review the information and meet again to go over the details.
- Review the proposed plan, gather documentation to address any concerns, and generate a range of ideas for solutions.
If an aspect of the proposed plan may jeopardize safety or violate local laws and regulations, don't argue. Present relevant information and suggest that the client review it with their legal department. For example, if the proposed plan re: beverage service could lead to some attendees leaving intoxicated, It is important for you to present information about local liquor laws and best practices.
- If you are working with a committee, set up a private meeting with the team leader to provide feedback.
Never give constructive feedback in a group or the team leader may get defensive.
- Focus on the merits of the client's plan.
Jumping in and immediately critiquing the plan will only lead to conflict.
- Outline your concerns briefly and give the client an opportunity to react.
- Listen and probe to gain an understanding of the reasons the client is learning towards the specific course of action that is of concern.
- Help the client explore options and propose possible solutions.
People are more likely to support ideas that they have generate.
- By all means contribute ideas of your own but be careful not to get locked into one solution or approach.
Couching ideas with the phrase "It is possible that I am wrong but..." can reduce defensiveness.
- Don't take it personally if the client disagrees.
Leave your ego at the door. Remember, it's not about you. It's about what is best for the event.
It is important for event planners to have strong problem-solving skills. Slowing down the process and involving the client in generating ideas will achieve better results than jumping in right away to propose solutions.
There are a number of influence skills workshops designed primarily for consultants. They would also be of benefit to event planners.
- Interpersonal Skills for Leadership Success (NTL Institute)
- Influence Skills: Getting Results without Direct Authority (Learning Tree)
- Effective Negotiating (Karrass)
For more posts about influence, also read Event Planners - Consulting Partners or Order Takers, Meeting and Event Design: Integrity vs Flexibility and Event Planning: 6 Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Clients.
Photo Credits:Reyner Media