Ending Client Relationships Smoothly


Bored of the same old mental health tips? Brace yourself, because this isn’t your typical list of clichés. Amidst the chaos of COVID-19, there were many positives – family time, adopting animals, online shopping, increased hand sanitizer use (yay for those that kept up that new habit) and a renewed emphasis on mental wellness. Now, with our minds hyper-focused and introspective, it’s time to explore unconventional avenues for maintaining our sanity with client relationships.

Sure, yoga and hot baths have their merits, but let’s dive deeper. As a seasoned event professional, with more than 25 years in the business, I’ve come to realize that client relationships can be a significant source of stress. Sound familiar? We’ve all felt unappreciated and reduced to mere “party planners” at times. Or maybe they love your ideas and work ethic so much they begin to “scope-creep” and involve you in every aspect whether it’s part of your contract or not.

But here’s the kicker: it’s perfectly okay to redefine these relationships. Whether it’s renegotiating your role or gracefully parting ways, reclaiming control is empowering. Yes, even firing a client can be a game-changer. Just like friendships, some professional relationships run their course. Timing is crucial – keep an eye out for organizational changes, shifts in direction, or personality clashes. Do their goals and objectives still align with your understanding? Is it an association? Does the board or organization change out with elections? Have they changed their mission statement or direction? Is it time for them to change their course and maybe they require someone who has different skill set. Sometimes it’s really about personalities. You can find yourself working with a new event lead who just has other ideas, knows another planner or what’s to shake things up.

So, how do you make a smooth exit? First, give proper notice; mutual respect is key. Our contracts have a mutual 90-day notice clause, if we are not at the end of the contract. Then, meticulously organize handover plans to ensure a seamless transition for both sides. Organize your files the best you can and start planning for handoff. We keep an exit plan list that we can use for all clients. It includes physical property, software, passwords, files and folders and all the things they need to continue to be successful. A messy and unprofessional exit could ruin your hard-earned reputation. Referral business is key in our industry.

Assist client with the changeover whether it’s to a new planner or just back to them to manage the event or association themselves. It’s always good to keep channels open and don’t burn bridges. On more than one occasion, I’ve had clients return because they realized we were the best fit for them and a great return on their investment.

Offer support to your clients during this process; maintaining goodwill can lead to future collaborations. And finally, give yourself permission to let go. Remember, it’s not personal; it’s business.

Don’t hesitate to take the leap; moving on doesn’t diminish your skills. Instead, it paves the way for fresh opportunities and reduced stress. As you transition, look for new business ventures to fill the gap, and remember to extend yourself some grace along the way.

In the whirlwind of event management, I’ve discovered solace in unconventional stress relievers. Tobermory and Roree, my newest furry companions (puppies) from a local rescue are a big part of that. They think I’m awesome; low judgement from them, that whole “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” thing. While they may not have mastered stress relief techniques yet, their playful antics inject much-needed laughter into my journey towards mental well-being.


Kate Kelly, CMP, CMM, is in event professional in Calgary Alberta. She is president and owner of ConventionALL Management Inc. and has been part of the industry for more than 25 years managing tradeshows, associations, events, strategies, and brand management. Kate is an active member of Canadian Society of Professional Planners (CanSPEP), an association dedicated to self-employed event professionals and served as president during COVID-19.




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