Event Management

The Eventprof’s Survival Guide to Working with Demanding Clients

Skift Take

Working with clients you hate, will eventually cause you to burn out and dislike your job, so you need to either change the way you select clients or find a way to cast aside your personal feelings about them.

Chances are as a child you professed quite angrily at some point that you hated something. An older relative probably corrected your language to say something along the lines of: “We don’t hate”. You likely grew up being leery of that word and realized its power early on.

As an adult you have a better understanding of what it means yet there are probably still times that you struggle with clientsclients you don’t like very much, clients you h@#$. But what can you do about it? You’re past the days of falling to the floor, pounding your fists, and kicking your feet. You have to work with them and that means tantrums are not allowed, at least not on your part.


Be More Selective with Event Clients

If you own your event planning business, you can be more selective in who you choose to work with. Honestly, it’s better to go without a client and work with the ones you love, than try to power through with someone who’s not a good fit for your business.

However, if being more selective with your clients isn’t an option, as is the case if you work for someone else, here are a few ways you can become more tolerant of those you’re assigned.

Recognize What Turns You Off in Others

Often people believe that they dislike those who are different than they are but in actuality, a lot of the issues that bother us with a client’s personality reflect what we dislike or fear most about ourselves. Hermann Hesse said: “If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”

Ask yourself what you really dislike about that client. When we point out what we hate about others, it’s generally in an attempt to make us feel better in not being that person. For instance, if you think your client is a ‘boastful windbag’, focusing on that and how different you are from them can make you feel like you are more humble and gracious because you are not exhibiting those same qualities.

But hating that person speaks to your own insecurity with the issue. Are you afraid of becoming a windbag? Are you worried you already are? Try working through that first before you make yourself ill by sublimating anger you have for the client.

Practice More Gratitude

Stop dwelling on your client’s bombastic ways (or whatever it is you dislike) and focus on your life and what you’re grateful for. This will never help you be best friends with your client but it will help you to be less bothered by them.

Your Client Isn’t a Sum of the Parts

Most of us are not one-sided buffoons. It’s possible that a very egotistical person is also very philanthropic. Instead of seeing the negative and assuming that they are giving merely as a self-serving action, imagine the good they are also doing. The child who is receiving medical care because of their generosity doesn’t care whether their ego is large or not and neither should you. Find the good behind the annoying.

Step Out of Your Roles

Reach out and get to know them better. Knowing someone’s motivations may help you see something from the other side. Your bombastic client may have created an empire from nothing and that deserves a little fanfare. Or maybe you see a large child in your client but at home, that ‘child’ is one heck of a dad. Plus, if he gets to know you better, he may tone down the overbearing attempts to impress.

Be Immune to Things That Aren’t About You

Often we think someone’s actions are because of us. Maybe they’re putting on a show for us or maybe they hate us. But chances are it has nothing to do with us. Stop inserting yourself in the middle of the drama and let it go.

Explain Your Feelings

If absolutely necessary and justified, explain your feelings to the client. But you should only do this if you can handle it professionally and if it’s something they can change. For instance, maybe you hate the late night calls you get from the client. This is something they can change and is worth a conversation. But if you hate the fact that they always wear sneakers with a suit, that’s one that’s probably best left alone.

Go the Criminal Defense Attorney Route

If you ask a criminal defense attorney how they can sleep at night representing people who may have committed atrocious crimes, they will tell you that everyone deserves a fair trial. For them, they don’t look at the potential ‘bad guy’ sitting in front of them. They think about the larger system and how justice is an essential part of that.

If you dislike your client, you can keep these attorneys in mind. Look past the person standing in front of you and think about the larger event you’re planning. Think about those who will benefit whether that’s a happy attendee or some sort of philanthropic organization.

Don’t Get Into the Social Media Mud

No matter how much you need to vent, do not turn to social media to do so. You never know who is listening or how something can be interpreted. For instance, you could be complaining about a client on social media, confident that they never use it. But another client could see your rant and think it is about them or very unprofessional of you.

Don’t ever talk about clients on social media unless you’re complimenting them.

Talk to Your Manager

It is a very rare situation where you would break up with a client, but occasionally it’s the right thing to do. Read…occasionally as in as often as we get to enjoy Haley’s comet. If you want to hold onto your professional reputation, you stick it out with a difficult client. Unless….

Give up a client if your relationship with that person is affecting your other clients, your business in general, or your health. And no, the occasional headache is not a health threat. Walk through these other steps first and if you’re still feeling like this client is putting your professional reputation and health at risk, talk with your boss.

Your company wants to impress the client, and if you’re not doing your best, this won’t happen. Plus this may give them an insight into the types of people you work well with and those you don’t. Maybe they’ll consider that in the future when assigning clients. But remember, this is a one-time thing. If you have these conversations with your manager every few clients, they’ll likely keep the clients and get rid of you.

In Conclusion

While you may not actually hate your clients, working with certain personalities can try patience and be the root cause of many a literal headache. But if you plan on remaining in the business,  you need to find ways to work past those feelings. If you can’t get past your feelings for someone, learn from it. Now that you know your own preferences, try and avoid that type of client in the future.

What type of client do you refuse to work with now because of a bad experience you’ve had in the past?