It’s that time of year when many people start planning out the year. Whether that means a personal event or something at work, usually there are numerous elements to coordinate. It can be a daunting task.
Planning an event is not a familiar task for most. If you do it for a living, well then you know how many things people just don’t think of when they start out, inviting people and announcing said event.
At work, there is often not someone dedicated to this type of work so someone volunteers or gets volunteered. That can happen with events in our personal lives too. We think it’s just like having a dinner party at our house: cook for a few extra people, that’s not too bad.
But then we start to make a list: invite people, plan a menu, shop for food, cook the menu, set the table, choose the wine, pick up dessert… and what if someone has allergies? Before we know it we’re in deep water with alligators circling around.
We all enter into situations where we are in the dark – we don’t even know what we don’t know, we can’t think of where to start or what questions to ask.
When the situation involves a specific task or subject then the solution is simple – contact a professional.
- plugged drain or toilet? Call a Plumber.
- your computer crashed and you can’t get it running? Call an IT Guy or a Tech Support Company.
- stressed out? Book an appointment at a Spa, or perhaps you prefer to speak to a Therapist.
You get the idea. So, when you decide you’re going to host an event, then an event planner sounds like a good idea, right? But what does an event planner do?
An Event Planner takes care of making your event happen successfully. That means they put together all the pieces and coordinate them so that things happen when and where and how you envision. They do this all within your budget and within your parameters for time and style. Or if they can’t, they work with you to find the best alternative (as in, when you’d love to host a glamorous evening that looks like it’s in Hollywood hotel, but you only have a shoestring budget and you’re in a small town with only a community centre).
The solution is easy though, if we go back to the straight-forward example. Find a professional whose reputation you trust, and let them do their job.
How do I know who I can trust? Good question. A bit of research can help offer you some reference points.
- Word of mouth from someone you already trust is invaluable. Do you know anyone who might have used a professional in this field? Ask them how their experience was, and if they have any tips for you.
- Check for recommendations and reviews, and remember to take your grain of salt. Social media is wonderful for giving us all a forum for anything we want to discuss, but sometimes we get carried away. When you look at reviews, look for people who have similar tastes to yours. Everything doesn’t work for everybody, so you have to choose what your priorities are. Is price more important than quality? Sometimes it is, and that’s okay. But we can’t expect top quality for a bargain basement price.
- Share your specifics with the professional so they can give you detailed answers to your questions. If you go looking for a new car and you ask the salesperson how much it is for a new car, the answer could be anything from a Mini to a Rolls Royce. Professionals don’t want to waste your time giving you every answer, and they are busy just like you, so set them up for success and let them know as much as you know.
Your first contact with a new professional is a shot in the dark. Maybe it will be a perfect fit, or maybe they won’t be able to help you at all. Good professionals with an upstanding reputation will be honest and let you know how they can help you. After all, they need to make a living, right? So believe that they do want your business, they want to do a good job for you.
How do I choose the right professional for the job? Once you have decided your priorities, then the best fit will be a professional with the same priorities.
For example, if you plan an event that has a specific theme, you will want professionals that work within that theme. Their style will be appealing to you. Another professional may have a price you like or they may be more conveniently located but if their experience, their niche, is not that style then you are making a compromise. If you choose them, you’re changing your priorities and you have to manage your expectations accordingly. (As in, “yay, we got a really great price! Too bad we didn’t get all the lovely details we liked in that style”)
Don’t expect a professional to know what you don’t tell them. If you call a plumber for a leaky faucet, he might not hear the dripping shower and even if he does, he doesn’t know you want that fixed as well, unless you tell him. If you want an event planner to organize your itinerary and take care of every last detail, be sure they know ahead of time. Ask them what they include for services; if you want extras or something different, communicate that up front.
How much should I pay? Ah, you’re thinking, we finally get to the most important question. That depends on what you want. Remember the car shopping?
Professionals that offer a service often don’t have a price list like a restaurant menu or a retail shop. They put together a combination of services for your request and give you a total price. Often they will ask you for your budget so they have an idea of where you fit in their range of possibilities. (With our car example, this means they learn if you want a Mini, a Rolls Royce, or maybe something in between.)
Don’t be afraid to give them a number, and actual dollar amount. A reputable professional will give you a fair estimate. Remember, they want to work so they won’t be trying to rip you off – that would be bad for their business and their reputation.
If you are hoping for some kind of deal, ask them how that might be possible and listen to their advice. Some things don’t go on sale. There are black out periods for many goods and services. Would you expect a bargain price for a hotel close to the stadium on Superbowl weekend? Do you think your odds for a cheap flight to see family are better at Christmas or mid-week in February? If you want to spend less on your wedding, getting married on a day other than Saturday, or in low season, can often save you money.
Supply and demand are factors of life. You might not have sympathy for airlines and hotel corporations who adjust pricing, but for smaller companies the seasonality of pricing means they make more of their living in high season and often use savings in low season when business is slow.
A special event is meant to be enjoyed. You want to make sure everyone has a good time, including you, and especially if you’re planning it. So, take my favourite advice:
Red Adair worked in the oil industry, putting out rig fires. His work was life & death, which event planning is not. But the stress we feel when things go wrong can seem like life and death in the moment, can’t they?
Trust a good professional to do what they do well, so you can do what you do well.