Amidst all the excitement of re-connecting and once again enjoying all the things we had lost during the pandemic, those of us in the event industry who work directly with clients found something new added to our proverbial “to do” list. We now found ourselves at the beck and call of clients, around the clock. Let me state something very important about this – it was no one’s fault. We all remember those early days of the pandemic when events were postponed for two weeks then one month, then one year and finally cancelled indefinitely. The decisions around these changes required many touchpoints and conversations with clients to offer alternatives, brainstorm solutions and ultimately to stay in touch until the time came that business could resume. Impromptu meetings coupled with reactive outputs, although necessary in times of contingency planning, have now seemingly become the norm, particularly for third-party planners and producers, during all phases of planning.
You find yourself answering more phone calls (or screening more often), replying to more emails and more text messages (because you felt the need to share your personal contact info when the industry was turning upside down). Sound familiar? What can you do to redefine a business relationship now that you have had Zoom meetings in your PJs at all hours of the day and night? Let’s start with reinstating your professional status. Get your clients back on track to have a milestone mindset to provide you with the time you require to complete the work you have been hired to do.
At the onset of your next project, introduce a roles and responsibilities document as a reminder of how you will work together. Outline the division of high-level tasks and activities between you and your client. Highlight how you and your team bring value to the project by reiterating your past successes with them, and with other clients, where the desired outcomes were achieved by following your processes and work-flows.
Provide a high-level timeline with very specific milestones and delivery dates. Help your client understand the time needed, in between touchpoints, to complete each task or activity and avoid unnecessary check-ins or interim meetings that will inevitably delay progress. The key is to revisit the high-level timeline as part of every meeting with your client to cross off what has been completed and discuss any potential delays for the next items on the list. Making this a regular part of your meeting agenda reminds your client of the agreed upon scope, creates transparency, and helps you to rebuild uninterrupted time blocks to get the work done.
Build in a dedicated client contact plan as part of your timeline development. It is important to set up regular and timely interactions for pro-active communications.
Routine meetings that are already part of your timeline provides clients with peace of mind and, more importantly, the patience to wait until your next touchpoint. Demonstrating to your client that both their time and yours is important, will help them to fall into your communication cadence, knowing that they will hear from you.
Follow-up all meetings, formal or informal, with a brief account of what was discussed and the assigned action items. The success of this element is time-sensitive and should be completed within 24 hours after the meeting to establish trust that you are on top of things. Otherwise, you risk having meeting attendees reactively reaching out during unscheduled times, interrupting your dedicated work-flow.
Time is a resource that should be cherished by both you and your client. Clients will only value your time as much as you do. If you are not planning your touchpoints your client will plan them for you. Understanding that you both value the same thing is an “ah-ha moment” that will bring your client relationships to the next level.
Leanne Andrecyk is an experienced event producer and time manager driven by the need to create order amidst chaos. She has led a variety of teams to successfully create client and guest experiences that make service and quality the focus. Currently semi-retired, she shares her skill set with organizations and individuals looking to improve efficiencies in communications and business processes.