Event Management

The Client is Not Always Right: Confessions from an Event Planning Agency

Skift Take

In this new series we present real-life confessions from people working in the event industry. These uncensored, frank insights tell it “like it really is”. Some details have been changed to respect the anonymity of the confessor and ensure maximum honesty can be upheld.

I am definitely a proud event planner, but I still jumped at this opportunity to share some of the things I can’t normally talk about. I am not one to moan, but I think other event managers will understand and agree with some of these infuriating parts of a job in events!

Lead Times are Ridiculous

Everyone is so busy nowadays but it often astounds me how late clients leave it to contact us. Creating an event in six weeks or less, from initial contact to final event, is certainly not unheard of. Once upon a time you would never dream of this as, let’s be honest, it isn’t giving the best start to an event. And this isn’t just small events either, this can be for decent sized fashion shows, product launches, dinners, you name it.

The most infuriating thing though is when clients approach you at the last minute but then you find out that they have been thinking about the event for months but have never done anything about it, even though the event date is set in stone. If only they had got us involved earlier we could often have had a better pick of venues, negotiated better rates, got more people there (after all – my diary is often busy even two months in advance – why should we expect it is different for our attendees?) and just kept the event team overtime and blood pressure levels down!

Of course, as an agency you have to be seen as “making things happen” and of course afterwards it is nice to show off that “we created this fantastic event in only 6 weeks.” I can’t help thinking that this then encourages more clients to have a short-term mentality though, instead of planning ahead in a timely manner. In most other industries or careers they would simply say “it isn’t possible” but for some reason event planners seem to take it as a personal challenge to create the impossible.

Clients Don’t Have a Clue

For a recent event the team were in the office until 11pm for the final three nights prior to the event date. It wasn’t that we were disorganized but it just needed to be done to ensure that everything went precisely as we wanted it to. Some of this was impacted by the client changing their mind about a few things and not supplying information by our deadlines, but these things happen and of course it becomes our problem, not the client’s problem. After all, the client is paying us to make these event related problems go away. Anyway, on the morning of the actual event the client asked what I had got up to the night before so I mentioned that we were working until late. The client says “oh right, were you running another event?” They had absolutely no comprehension that this is what we needed to do to deliver a proper job for them. Or that by missing the deadlines we set for them that they had made our job 10 times harder.

No one actually has a clue what goes into running an event. Perhaps it is our fault for making it look too easy or for caring too much. Maybe some other people or other agencies would choose to wing it or to cut corners but that is definitely not the way we do things.

Clients Are Definitely Not Always Right

I am lucky enough to manage some amazing accounts and to work with some fantastic brands and big names. I love how they challenge us to push boundaries and create something unique. And of course I love it when they have a decent budget to match!

With other clients though it is most definitely us trying to push them. Too often we come up with some really groundbreaking ideas and concepts that would be perfect for them, but they decide they don’t have the budget or get scared or simply want to play it safe. Likewise we often see the value of using event technology but not all of our clients can be persuaded. Clients seem to “get it” and lap it up or be really scared about relying on technology.  

Most of the accounts I manage seem to respect my opinion and experience and listen to our advice but every so often a client will be adamant that they want to do something their way. In these circumstances if we really cannot bring them around to our way of thinking I just put it in writing to them that it is against our advice but we respect their wishes and will do it their way. And of course I try not to take any satisfaction when they find out that I was right and realize that they should have listened after all!

Are All Event Planners Bonkers?

There are so many great people in the industry – it seems to attracts a certain type of personality. I suppose you have to be a bit mad to work in events! Attending fam trips are always a nice treat and opportunity to meet new people. I never give too much away but it rarely seems to be too competitive between the agencies attending, everyone gets along like a house on fire and gets on with having a good time. A bit of friendly rivalry and appreciation is probably good anyway.

Why I Love My Job

For me I love brainstorming ideas and creating a pitch to a client and getting them excited about the vision we can create for them. At the end of a project the sense of satisfaction is tremendous (especially if the lead time has been less than six weeks!) and it makes you really proud knowing the massive achievement every successful event is (even if our clients never fully understand what went into it!).

Another high point for me is the award ceremonies. Some of the events I have attended have been legendary, lots of fun. It is particularly nice when your events or clients are recognized too.

In Conclusion

There is something strangely addictive about the event planning role and I am thankful every day that I get to do something I truly enjoy. If I could iron out short lead times, long hours and pesky clients that don’t listen and miss deadlines though it would be even better!

Want to share your own event planning confession? Email [email protected] and we will be in touch!