Hot Potatoes: Managing Tension Between Event Guests

Hot PotatoTension between event guests or meeting participants can derail even the most well-planned events. Overt and subtle conflicts can arise at corporate events, public events, weddings, and private events. Event planners need to have strategies in their back pocket in order to deal with those hot-to-handle event issues and challenges that arise from time to time. Here are some observations. 

The key to success is to be proactive:

  • Corporate Events: Be sure that you are fully briefed about group dynamics before corporate events. Identify a member of the management team as your go-to person if things start to get out of hand.
  • Team Building: Corporate team building provides an opportunity for participants to see each other in a new light. Outside their day-to-day work environment individuals can practice new styles of interaction. When forming teams for the activities that are often a part of team building sessions and retreats, placing team members who need to improve their relationships on the same team can pay off. Select activities that require collaboration for team success.
  • Dinners, Banquets, and Galas: Sit-down dinners offer the best opportunity to stage manage events and reduce the likelihood of conflict. It is important to carefully manage the seating arrangements. Review the seating plan with your key contact with the client to minimize interactions that may turn out to be difficult.
  • Receptions and Buffets: Events that involve mixing and mingling increase the likelihood that individuals may come together. Usually the discomfort is momentary. Especially at business functions, most people will take steps to avoid argument or overt conflict.
  • ConflictPrivate Events, Public Events, Concerts, and Wedding Receptions: Bag searches, the use of metal detectors, and frisking of patrons regularly take place at concerts, sporting events, and nightclub events for a reason. A quick Google search will reveal the frequency with which fights break out at celebrity events held at nightclubs and even weddings.‚Äč Definitely assess the level of risk and select the appropriate level of security, especially for large events. Events ourside the business environment are more likely to be problematic. 

    To prevent situations from getting out of hand,
    • ask questions to determine if there are any areas for concern w.r.t. potential conflict between guests when planning weddings or private events.
    • to reduce alcohol-fueled fights, hire bartenders who are trained to keep the lid on alcohol consumption.
    • plan for enough security at public events and, if necessary, weddings.

For tips to minimize or manage conflict at business meetings, also consult 9 Steps for Managing Conflict During Meetings.

Photo Credit: Martin Catrae, John Morgan

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