One of the most frustrating things you likely deal with as an event planner is deadlines. It’s particularly difficult when you rely on other people to meet them. So how do you motivate others without screaming your orders when they miss things? Here are a few psychological techniques that can help.
Even the best event planners can’t do it all themselves. At some point, everyone must rely on someone else. Whether it’s someone on your event team or a vendor you’re relying on, a missed deadline can have a massive knock on effect and make it impossible to shine. If you’re having difficulty motivating people and getting them to deliver on time, here are a few psychological techniques that will help you.
First, in order to use these psychological strategies, you have to get comfortable with manipulation. If you don’t use these strategies for your own personal gain, but to ensure all deliverables happen on time as planned, you can get past the negative connotations of manipulation. Once you do, you can look to make them work. Remember what you are doing is of benefit to you and your team.
One of the basic psychological techniques to establish connections is called mirroring. As the name suggests it involves replicating the physical actions of the person you’re communicating with. If they slow their speech, you slow yours. Match the speed of their breath and their use (or non-use) of hand gestures. If you’re walking with them, match their speed and strides.
Make subtle use of this process as overt usage can cause someone to feel copied or mimicked and that will not build a feeling of connectedness and understanding. If someone unconsciously picks up on the fact that you have similar mannerisms and nonverbal gestures to theirs, they will likely feel that you have similar attitudes and ideas as well. Use this technique when explaining the deadlines and deliverables.
Give Them a Reason
People are more apt to do what you want when you give them a reason, even if it’s not a very good one. The “Xerox study” conducted by Ellen Langer in 1978 showed that people were more likely to allow someone to cut in line to use the photocopier if they gave a reason; even if that reason was simply “because I need to make copies.”
When setting a deadline, give your person a reason even if it’s one that’s painfully obvious like “making the client happy” or “doing a good job” and make sure you use the word “because” to precede your reason.
Help Them Succeed
Your goal may be on-time delivery, but there’s likely something they want too. Find out what that desire is, help them accomplish it and they’ll help you get things done. This is a preemptive “give so you shall receive” idea that works really well if you have time to play the long game.
Set up the Environment
Asking people to help (or establishing a deadline) in a social setting and in front of others is more apt to yield results than doing so in a business setting.
But asking people for “favors” is a good way for them to feel indebted to you as well. Often known as the Benjamin Franklin effect, Franklin discovered that asking a favor of his rival yielded future return. Most people feel obligated to agree to the initial favor and once they do, they will feel obligated to do more for you. Cognitive dissonance does not allow us to perform a favor and then treat someone poorly. It is difficult to hold contradictory beliefs such as disliking someone and lending them favor.
Offer A Less Appealing Option
People love options. Just as companies offer multiple pricing options to drive sales, you can do the same with deadlines. Give them 1-2 additional ways of achieving the deadline that are less appealing and they’ll choose the one you wanted all along. For instance, tell them you need their service done in “this” way by the 11th or “this more complicated” way by the 17th. They will likely choose the one you want and feel good about the fact they had some decision in when it was due. Just ensure the options and delivery dates are clear.
Studies show that people think of behavior when verbs are the focus of the conversation like “do this..” or “deliver your service…” On the other hand, when nouns are the focus, they think about self-identities and who they want to be. Instead of barking orders, talk to who everyone wants to be like “successful people” or “successful event teams.” If you can find the nouns your team identifies with you can motivate them to adhere to, or possibly beat deadline expectations.
Manage Your Emotions
This idea is not exactly a psychological technique but more of an old adage: you get more flies with honey. If you are not in control of your emotions, if you are prone to angry rages based on hearing negative news or anything that will affect a deliverable, people will stop telling you when things won’t be done by the deadline. This communication shutdown doesn’t help anyone.
Instead, you need to work on being approachable, yet stern. You don’t want anyone to think there aren’t consequences if they don’t meet a deadline but you certainly don’t want them withholding vital information from you. Learn to manage your emotions even if you have to study acting to do it. Knowing when to appear distressed and when not to be is vital to event planning and poker. A debate class or public speaking class can help as well.
Deadlines are difficult to meet but even more so when there are multiple people involved in the deliverables. Begging and pleading only works so well. Ultimately, you need some assurances things will get done. In addition to the psychological suggestions above, it helps to always be clear about who owns what and when it’s due, tell them multiple times, send reminders only to those you haven’t heard from, and compliment those who have achieved what you wanted in front of others so that the group understands what success looks like. Whenever possible rely on the same team you’ve used before and you’ll have the confidence that they can deliver.