Event Planner and Wedding Industry Professional Tips: Serving your Clients throughout the Discomfort of Uncertainty
I’ll never forget where I was on March 15, 2020. I don’t think anyone in the events industry will forget it. It was Sunday, and Taylor and I were sitting on the couch. The kids had just gone to bed. We had all been watching the rapidly evolving Coronavirus news over the past few weeks, and I was scrolling through Apple News to get any latest updates. And there - in the headlines - I saw it. That cold, prickly feeling went down my spine. The CDC was recommending that no events over 50 people take place for the next 8 weeks. With that one announcement, our whole year changed.
For those of you who know me, you know that me and my team have navigated several different crises. From replanning a wedding in 72 hours due to the Thomas Fire to navigating venue closures with the Montecito mudslide, me and my team are no strangers to thinking “on the fly” and implementing new plans QUICKLY when we need to.
I immediately jumped on my laptop and emailed all of my clients, saying that I wanted to set-up a phone call with them on Monday. I encouraged them and told them: “I’m On Your Team.” I told the truth: the situation is changing, and I want to get on the phone with you to talk about our next steps.
Monday was hard. I talked with each of my clients who had events in the next 8 weeks. There were tears, people who felt hopeless, and lots of questions: what are we going to do? Do we cancel? How do we know if there will be any more dates open? How far out do we postpone? Should we just elope? The conversations weren’t easy, but I met each one with grace and was ready to listen.
After listening, we worked with each couple to come up with the best solution for them (over the weeks that followed). Some were rescheduled to future dates, some re-planned their wedding to be more intimate or more of a party. It was a lot of hard work. But it was good work. And I’m proud of it.
And here’s the thing: We are still in the middle of this global pandemic. The situation will evolve and change and isn’t in my control. I can’t control what is going on in the outside world, but I can control how I respond.
Friends, there are four things I want you to take away from this story:
Hearing that my source of income was being literally wiped out for the next 8 weeks (and potentially longer) was scary. None of us plan for global pandemics in our businesses. Sure, we plan for a client or two cancelling here and there, we plan for an unexpected shift in plans every once-in-awhile, but 8 weeks worth of work? Never in a million years. Until March 15, 2020. It’s ok to feel all the emotions when things are uncertain.
Instead of being paralyzed by that fear of the unknown (what is going to happen to me? My family? My clients? My events? My business?), we need to continue to move forward. We need to take action. When things are uncertain or not going to plan, it’s important for us to lead the communication with our clients. If possible, be the first to reach out and address the situation. When we are leading the conversation, we have the opportunity to do so with bravery, grace, and to develop a solution alongside the people we serve.
We don’t need to have an answer right away. It’s ok to say that you need to think or consider some options, and give your client an actionable date you will get back to them.
When things are tough, we need to SERVE. Serving doesn’t mean letting go of personal or professional boundaries. It doesn’t mean ignoring your contracts and pricing structures. It doesn’t mean letting go of your personal brand and the quality of your work. To me, serving means to work alongside my clients to hear what they need to say and work with them to develop the best possible solution in a pragmatic, professional, peaceful way. It means giving open, honest, authentic advice and walking them through what options they have. It means being prepared. It means being honest when you don’t have a solution right away. Essentially, to me, it means being on the SAME TEAM.
My friends, we are all navigating this global crisis together. We are not in control of what will happen. It’s ok to feel all the emotions as they come up.
When we are faced with fear, we can take action and lead the conversation.
We can lean in to the discomfort of the unknown
We can work together and be on the same team.