Bridezilla is the stereotype, but really, Event Management comes with so many unique challenges that a highly-strung bride can seem like the least of your worries!
A professional Events Manager knows exactly how to deal with the stressed-out bride, her domineering mother, and the touchy-feely uncle.
If only all problems were people, the professional Events Manager would be able to plan and pull-off the perfect party in their sleep!
However, event management is not just about being able to run interference, or redirect troublesome meddlers; being a master manipulator (read: “people person”) just isn’t enough.
Even more challenging than a high-maintenance client can be satisfying the client with big dreams and a small budget, or ensuring your company’s ongoing compliance with ever-changing and increasingly restrictive regulations.
Whether you’re just starting out, or you’re a seasoned Event Planning veteran looking for help overcoming a particular challenge, our Event Planners here at The Aleit Group have put their heads together to bring you a basic troubleshooting guide to overcoming a variety of the more common Event Management challenges.
Aleit Events – Insider Event Management Tips
– Budgets, Budgets, Budgets –
Whether the budget your client has given you is small, sufficient, or extravagant, it can be challenging to work with, and stick to, any budget that is not unlimited (and how many of us have ever had the privilege of working on an event with a truly unlimited budget?).
Clients will also not necessarily know, like you do, to always over-budget, and make sure that there is a cushion in their financial planning.
Obviously the event budget is one of the very first things you want from a prospective client.
They can show you their Pinterest boards full of designer, handcrafted stationery, and hotel ballrooms, till the cows come home, but if their budget is more DIY than valet parking, you’re going to have your work cut out for you making their dreams a reality.
That being said, working with a small or limited budget is not impossible, and though you will have to develop tactful ways of steering a client toward choices/themes/venues/vendors/etc. that they can, in fact, afford; if you are honest about the realities of the state of the budget with both your client, and the vendors you approach on their behalf from the beginning, you can still host a stunning soiree on a budget.
It is also of vital importance that you stress to your clients the volatile nature of the economy.
It is of the utmost importance that you build a cushion into your budget so that you are able to stick to it, even should the prices of specific items or services rise considerably during the planning stages of your event. In other words, ask your clients for their max cap in terms of budget, and then don’t compile a budget that allocates every cent of that amount.
Factor in a cushion!
Ultimately, it is up to the event planner or manager to get creative and innovative with the budget provided. You need to be resourceful in finding more cost effective suppliers, and being upfront with them about the budget you have been given to work with.
Often, if you are an established events coordinator who has brought them a lot of business in the past, your go-to vendors will make up special packages for your clients to suit their needs and budget.
– Picking the Right Venue –
Your clients will not necessarily have access to all the contacts you do, or have as much experience planning events. If this is the case, they will turn to you for guidance when picking a venue for a function.
It can, however, be difficult to dissuade a client from a particular venue they have fallen in love with, even though you know the venue isn’t compatible with their budget, or is better suited to a corporate event than a private party.
It can also be difficult to work with a venue you are unfamiliar with, and that your client has selected before hiring you.
The best tip we can provide for overcoming any number of venue-related challenges is to do extensive research on the potential venues your client is interested in, and to do a physical site visit of those you think will meet their needs, both financial and otherwise.
It is important to compare the venues not only with one another, but also with the overall vision you and your client have for the day – this will help you overcome any number of event planning problems before they even arise. Often, a client is not able to see the bigger picture in the same way that you have been trained to.
Therefore, it is important to visit venues with your client, so that you can show them how the venue hire will fit into the budget, what implications choosing that venue will have on their visions for decor, for example, and whether or not a venue will allow them to use any number of the other vendors they already have their hearts set on.
Remember, it is your job not only to satisfy the client’s immediate desires, but to help them select a venue that is going to meet their expectations of the feeling of their event.
While it can be difficult to explain something as intuitive as a feeling to your client, an experienced event planner should pick up relatively quickly whether or not a venue is compatible with the client’s vision for their function, and advise the client accordingly.
Sometimes giving a client everything they want just because they want it in that moment will result in a function that lacks cohesion and ultimately disappoints them because all those things they wanted didn’t add up to the vision they had in mind like they assumed they would.
– Technological Challenges –
It can be challenging for some event organizers to keep up with all the technology trends.
Whether this means keeping up with the latest aesthetic trends, or keeping up with the technology; getting behind can seriously impact your ability to find and retain clients.
Whether it’s a new development in the online RSVP world, or a new online marketing trend, if you’re not able to meet your client’s technological needs consistently, they will go elsewhere.
That is why it is important to keep up with the technological trends.
A great way to make sure you stay on top of your events are to make use of an Event Management Software. This will not only help you manage multiple events, but will help you measure the results and performance for each event.
To learn more about what Event Management Software is, read this article by Hubilo.com – What is an Event Management Software?
We live in a fast-paced, technologically driven world, where rapid-fire change and development is unavoidable. Make sure that you’re hip with the kids, and that you’ve got a contact in your back pocket for everything from wedding website design to drone videography.
Pro Tip: If you’re having trouble making sense of a new online marketing trend, getting the hang of social media marketing, or working with your client’s dedicated wedding mobile app; ask your son/daughter/cousin/neighbour/neighbour’s kid/etc. to help you.
Call it a sign of the times, but these days, anyone under the age of 20 seems to have been born with an innate understanding of all things tech.
Also, be proactive! Go out there, take a short course, read an article online, subscribe to relevant platforms so that you can keep your finger on the pulse, network, broaden your horizons and fill the gaps in your knowledge.
You know what they say: the more you know…
– Rising Costs During the Planning of the Event –
Rising costs during the planning of the event can present a massive, seemingly insurmountable challenge, especially if you or your client neglected to include some cushion room in the budget.
Unfortunately, costs are only going up, and while your client knows a friend who got x-venue at y-price last year, that doesn’t mean that y-price hasn’t tripled in the interim.
Not only are annual increases not necessarily at the end of the calendar year, especially in seasonal industries like the wedding industry, but a quote your client got a month ago may no longer be valid by the time you want to go ahead and book the vendor for them.
That is why it is important to:
- Avoid estimating costs as far as possible
- Get quotes from vendors in writing
- Establish beforehand how long the quote is valid for
- Have a contingency or backup plan wherever or whenever possible
- Be honest with your client and your vendors from the get go. Prices will fluctuate; this is the reality of the market and the current economy. Plan according.
– Planning a Memorable Event –
Planning a memorable event is easier said than done. Whether you’re trying to plan a corporate event that’ll set a company apart, or planning a business or product launch that has to see the client’s interests skyrocket as a result, the bar is set pretty high.
How do you attain that wow-factor?
How do you outdo the competition?
It is already so difficult for a new business to enter an established market; how much more difficult is it not for a business to enter an existing market without the hullabaloo and press associated with a big, splashy corporate launch?
How do you set yourself apart as event planner? How do you help your client set themselves apart? What happens when a bride demands a one-of-a-kind wedding, and considers Pinterest weddings the bane of her existence? How are you going to plan a totally unique high profile event worthy of the industry’s leading magazine feature spread?
A cliche is a cliche for a reason, and you can’t go wrong with thinking out of the box here.
A small budget needn’t stop you if you’ve got the right team waiting in the wings to help you make your innovative ideas a reality.
While we’re talking innovation; if you’re planning an event that’s meant to have the wow-factor, to stand out, or to be one-of-a-kind: write down your first three ideas on paper, and then scrap them. They’ve definitely been done before. Now, ideas number 4, 5 and 6; they might be worth pursuing.
– Keeping Track of the Event Planning Process –
The saying goes: too many cooks spoil the dish; and the truth is it can be very difficult for you as events planner to keep everybody in the know when there are so many fingers in the one (event) pie.
Whether you’re communicating with all the vendors on your client’s behalf, or whether your client is contacting their vendors directly, it’s very easy for somebody to get left out of the loop.
Especially when your client deals with their vendors directly instead of through you and those vendors don’t think to inform you of any changes.
It is vital to the success of the event that you keep the lines of communication between yourself, your client, and the vendors open.
Hopefully you’ve got a team of trusted vendors on your side who know the industry well enough to contact you should the client make any direct requests of them, but sometimes you don’t get to work with the people you know and trust and that’s why it’s always important to make sure that all involved are on the same page at all times.
Establish a “chain of command” right off the bat.
Tell your client that it is easier to keep track of changes during the event planning process if all requests and communications go through you.
Pro Tip: Providing your client with an event planning checklist, and using one yourself, can help minimize the amount of back and forth between the two of you, and the amount of requests for changes that crop up during planning. This is because the checklist usually helps clients see the bigger picture and structure their requests and thoughts coherently and cohesively from the get-go.
– Time Management –
While the event planning checklist is a definite must-have, it is of little to no use if your client doesn’t understand the associated timeline. Prioritizing tasks, and scheduling them accordingly, isn’t your client’s area of expertise, and shouldn’t be their concern.
So, to help them help you, structure your checklist on a timeline!
When you’re discussing the event with your client they may have many big ideas about the decor and the ambience and the guest list, but if they have given no thought to a venue, you as event planner really don’t have a place at which to start.
By structuring the checklist you provide your clients at your first meeting like a timeline, the client is able to see, at a glance, which decisions they need to prioritize.
E.g. They can see that they’ll need to pick a venue before you can discuss floral arrangements, or that they’ll need to provide you with the body-copy for the invitations before you can get a quote from the printers or calligrapher.
Make sure that everyone involved in the planning of the event, and in the carrying out, setting up, or clearing up of the event itself, knows the timeline both leading up to the event, and the timeline for the day of!
– Managing Multiple Events –
If you haven’t learnt to juggle, you’re going to have to learn now — events managers are world-class jugglers who often handle multiple events being planned, and even happening at the same time.
While it can be difficult to handle multiple events simultaneously, compartmentalizing can really help!
The key is to compartmentalize and get your work-life organized.
Whether this means separate cell phones or cell numbers for different clients, or colour-coded binders, you need to be on top of your game at all times and can’t get one event confused with another when you’re dealing with caterers, venues and the clients themselves!
While it can be a fun challenge to plan and manage two completely different events at the same time, planning and managing two very similar events for two clients at the same time can be trickier — how do you decide which client gets which idea you had?
Or which client gets to make use of which service provider if you’re planning two events for the same day?
Time management and good listening skills are key to planning and managing two world-class events at the same time.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: no matter how similar two client’s visions for an event may seem, they’ll tell you exactly what they want, and exactly what makes their vision for the event so different from what everybody else has done in the past if you’ll only listen closely and carefully enough.
Read between the lines and get a feel for your clients and/or the companies they represent and pitch and plan accordingly.
You’ll soon see that if you pay close enough attention, their ideas and/or corporate identities are completely unique.
– Lack of Buy-in from Upper Management –
It can be incredibly demotivating to pitch what you considered a breakthrough idea to upper management only for them to decline to back the concept or pitch your ideas to the client.
How can you better go about selling upper management on your ideas?
Whether you’re pitching your immediate superior, or doing research for the big boss, sometimes they won’t like your ideas. Other times, they may dismiss your ideas due to a lack of research.
The problem is that many fiscally-minded, or practical individuals don’t or can’t see a way to make big dreams into reality in the same way that creatives can and do.
Therefore, it is always your responsibility to elaborate on the feasibility and practicability of an idea when you’re pitching upper management, and even the client.
If, for example, your client requested the wow-factor and you want to throw a carnival-themed masqued ball and have your client arrive at the venue in a hot-air balloon shaped like an elephant, your superior is going to dismiss you out of hand.
But, if you can show upper management a proposed venue that would allow the hot air balloon to land, a quote from that venue, authorization from your local municipality to have a balloon in the air on the proposed date, a quote from the company that has an elephant-shaped hot air balloon, and evidence of the client’s love for the extravagant based on their costume at last year’s company Halloween party, pulled from the company Facebook page… upper management is far more likely to take you seriously.
– Keeping Track of the Little Things –
The saying “small things amuse small minds” couldn’t be any less true.
In fact, when you’re working as an events manager and coordinator, it’s your job to show exceptional attention to detail and to sweat the small stuff!
Whether your client’s DJ is playing a song they requested be excluded from the playlist, or the icing on the cake has attracted bees and the best man is allergic, you better have plans A through Z ready to go, because if you’re not paying attention to the little details, who is?
While nothing trumps experience, and eventually you’ll know the ins and outs and “what-could-possibly-go-wrongs” like the back of your hand, research is key when you just know that you don’t know enough.
They say smart people are those who can admit when they don’t know the answer; smarter people still are those who can admit that they don’t know the answer, and will go and find it.
Pro Tip: Try asking friends and family what little details make an event special in their eyes. Try asking them what went wrong on their wedding days, at corporate functions they attended, or at events they planned themselves. We are our own worst critics, and maybe you can learn from their mistakes.
– Overcoming Planner’s Block –
Like writer’s block for events planners, at some point in your career you’ll inevitably find yourself feeling uninspired, burnt out, or completely creatively and artistically drained.
Whether you’re struggling to come up with fresh, new, original ideas for functions, or are feeling stuck in a rut; taking up a new hobby that forces you to express yourself in a way that you are not used to, or even taking a vacation can help wipe the mental slate clean so that you can start fresh when filling in the beautiful blank canvas of your next big event!
– Selecting the Right Vendors –
It can be difficult to build a network of trusted vendors and service-providers when you’re new to the industry.
Similarly it can be difficult to work with somebody with whom you don’t have an established rapport, but sometimes the client will request a particular vendor and odds are you’ll just have to figure out how to work with them.
Selecting vendors can be the event planner’s job, or the client’s responsibility and that is something you’ll want to establish very early on in the planner/client relationship, and it’ll definitely be stipulated in your contract.
Perhaps you’re a well-established and highly sought-after events coordinator, in which case you might be able to specify in your contracts that you work with set vendors that you know and trust in order to make a client’s function as special and successful as possible. Perhaps you simply act as a go-between for your client and their preferred vendors.
The important thing is to get everything in writing, and to ensure that everybody understands their individual roles from the get-go.
Be honest with your client if you know of a better service provider than the one they’re suggesting, but also be flexible, and willing to work with other vendors when, perhaps, budget precludes them from using your preferred suppliers.
Pro Tip: Throw your weight around with your preferred suppliers/vendors, and you may be able to score your client a package tailormade to suit their event budget.
– Choosing The Best Menu –
Depending on the kind of function or event you’re coordinating, the onus may fall on you to select the menu.
Even when it doesn’t, you’ll likely have to liaise with the caterer and the client and set up an appointment for a tasting.
How do you know which menu to select for the occasion, or how best to guide your client?
Choosing the menu can be challenging because palettes differ so vastly, fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and food allergies are a big, big deal and always need to be kept in mind.
You wouldn’t want a guest going into anaphylactic shock because the kitchen wasn’t aware of their peanut allergy beforehand.
Remind your client of the following, and keep the following in mind yourself when selecting the menu for an event:
- What is the budget?
- Does anybody have food allergies?
- Is anybody vegetarian?
- How many courses will guests be accustomed to/expecting?
- How will food be served? (E.g. plated or buffet)
- Will guests indicate their meal choice when RSVPing, will guests be able to order, or will meals arrive preplated?
- What fruits and vegetables are in season?
- What is the chef’s speciality?
Pro Tip: When in doubt, trust the professionals – asking the chef’s advice is never a bad idea.
– RSVP Management –
If RSVP management is your responsibility it’s vital that you not drop the ball!
It can be a monumental task trying to keep track of telephonic RSVPs, snail-mail RSVPs and even email RSVPs, nevermind trying to track attendance across mediums!
The quickest and easiest way to manage RSVPs these days is online.
So, if your client has a wedding website, speak with the developer and get them to include an online RSVP function from which you can simply extract one spreadsheet’s worth of “attendings” and “regretfully not attendings” come the RSVP deadline.
The same goes for events that have a registration process. The key is to make it as easy and fast as possible to register for the event.
– Increasing and/or Stricter Legal Regulations –
When your client wants the wow-factor, and you’re not sure whether or not their big idea is even legal, you can find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.
If you tell the client “no”, you risk losing them, but indulging them could land you or your company in hot water with the local authorities, venue owners or even the law at large!
Especially when dealing with international clients, what is legal where they come from might not be legal where they are hoping to host their function.
Whether the client wants fireworks, horse-drawn carriages, or something akin to South Africa’s own infamous “sushi girls”, it’s your job to figure out what you can pull off within the constraints of the law, both of the country and the rules and regulations of your service providers and/or vendors.
Pro Tip: It is also vital that you ensure that your company as a whole is in compliance with all local and national government regulations – or it could cost you business! It is also important to ensure that your business insurance is in order, and that you are adequately covered.
The law dictates that you have certain insurance policies and/or contribute to certain government funds depending on the nature of your business.
Ultimately, as this comprehensive guide has served to illustrate, event management can be an incredibly rewarding job.
It is, however, not without its unique challenges; and the faint of heart need not apply. Planning a client’s event is like being a surrogate mother – you’re literally responsible for someone else’s baby, in this case, their brain-child. Your clients entrust you with their vision, and you are the miracle-worker who knows just what to say and do to make it happen.
So whether you’re testing the waters and checking out potential challenges pre-emptively, or whether you found yourself backed into a corner, resorting to googling your way out of it, we hope you find event management (and this troubleshooting guide) as thoroughly fulfilling and pleasurable as we do.
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Event Planning 101- Challenges and how to overcome them, www.omaticsoftware.com
Top 6 Difficulties Event Organizers Face While Organizing Events, abrition.com
What are the problems faced by an events management company?, www.quora.com
These Are the Top 10 Challenges Facing Event Planners, www.socialtables.com
10 Common Mistakes Event Planners Make, www.eventmanagerblog.com
The Event Planning Challenges Of Corporate Event Marketers, blog.attendease.com
The 5 Most Common Mistakes in Event Planning (and how to avoid them!), institute-of-event-management.com
10 Challenges You’ll Face When Planning Your Event, www.laurencaselli.com
Overcome the Challenges of Planning an Unforgettable Private Dining Event, r2lrestaurant.com