What a season, right? The event boom in 2021 has stood in stark contrast to the lull of 2020, and many event professionals are feeling the pressure from increased demands. It's not just the business owners carrying the weight of the COVID era, though—our clients and our teams are right there with us.
While it might seem easier to stay in your lane and deal with your own busy schedule, event entrepreneurs are leaders in many regards. As a result, you must show up as a strong, formidable leader that is ready to escort your clients and staff through this busy period.
Great leaders are resilient in the face of difficulty, so it's time to step up to the plate and be the guide your network needs. Here are the strategies that will take you from fearful follower to empowered executive.
Serving as a leader for your clients
We don't often think of our clients when we think leadership, but that's exactly what you are! Your clients pay for your services because they believe you are the expert authority on what they need to accomplish. Only you can help them achieve their goal, which puts you in charge.
Meredith Reed, account manager for Ace Party and Tent Rental, explains that demonstrating leadership with clients is more vital than ever before: "Most clients do not know what it is like to plan an event now after COVID-19. As an event professional, you can showcase leadership by being open and honest with clients. Being upfront so they are not scrambling at the last minute or having unexpected costs due to restrictions, or added space is extremely important. Knowing all the protocols and safety measures that a venue requires is key for at least the next year."
With the uncertainties that surround COVID-19, expect a lot of questions and concerns from clients that have just watched a year's worth of events get postponed and canceled.
Shannon Tarrant, co-founder of WeddingVenueMap.com, encourages event pros to be proactive in meeting their clients' needs: "Answer your client's questions before they get the chance to ask them. When you can predict their challenges and solve potential problems before they happen, the event professional can establish themselves as the expert."
To get ahead of the game and build trust early in the relationship, layout all of the expectations for clients planning an event in 2021 (and even 2022) and how you'll serve them.
Wendy Kidd, certified Master Wedding Planner with Each & Every Detail, elaborates: "Professionals can start by acknowledging any industry issues with their clients, calmly stating any bumps in the road clients might encounter and how you as the professional will handle these or prevent them for the client is what sets you up as the leader and expert they need.
"These bumps in the road could be as simple as availability for services or something more complicated like delays in supply chains," Kidd says. "Start simple when explaining any difficulties, only getting into specific details as needed instead of overloading them with information. Explain what steps you as the professional will take or what steps they can take as the clients to mitigate any issues, such as making decisions quickly so the product can be ordered earlier, allowing for shipping delays. Always bring a solution to the table when explaining a problem, and this will help your clients remain calm."
And, for those questions that keep coming up (ex: "What is your cancellation policy?" or "What safety measures do you take to reduce viral risk?"), save yourself the headache of recreating the wheel and add them to an FAQ page that you can easily share around.
Tarrant explains: "When the questions are positioned as frequently asked, clients are more likely to read them to see what others are trying to learn. The key is to put the information somewhere EASY to access. Start by building a detailed FAQ page on your website, make it easy to find, and then as your share the FAQs on other marketing channels, link them back to this page."
When you show up as the one who will guide your clients through the storm, you will establish trust and build stronger relationships without a doubt.
Serving as a leader for your team
Of course, leadership isn't just for your clients—it's also for the team of employees that look to you for support and guidance. Stepping into the head role is always important in your business, but it's particularly critical when it's all hands-on deck. Taking care of your team isn't just about ensuring productivity but also being mindful of their physical and mental wellbeing.
"Make sure that we are being respectful of people's personal lives," stresses Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates. "I believe the major thing people in our industry will take from 2020-2022 is to protect or strive for some balance in their life. If you can't respect days off or give people support to be their best both in the office and out, you will have a retention problem (which in my opinion always stems from some sort of poor leadership)."
On a similar note, don't forget to have fun! A great leader knows what their business needs to succeed, but they aren't laser-focused on outputs at the expense of team morale. The most sustainable companies are those with cultures that allow employees to feel engaged and empowered.
Kristin Wilson, CEO of Our DJ Rocks, suggests giving your team something to look forward to: "Pick a week after the busy season ends and close the offices for everyone to give them a much-needed break. Or, if that's not possible, have some kind of party for your team and their spouses to show them how much they are appreciated. Studies have shown that the excitement leading up to a vacation or event can give someone just as much joy as the event or vacation itself. Use that to your advantage and give the team something to enjoy at the end of it all!"
But it's not just about giving your team the personal time they need to thrive in and out of the business. You must also guarantee that they feel valued for what they bring to the table.
Nora Sheils, founder of Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, speaks to the importance of compensation and benefits: "A well-respected leader gives to their team in the form of good pay, mentorship, and educational opportunity. They give to the industry through valuable resources to advance the knowledge base. They donate time, money, and services to their community for charitable causes. A leader gives because they live in an abundance mindset rather than a scarcity mindset—they know that their contributions do not diminish what they have but rather add to it with experience, rapport, and positivity."
In a season where many people are feeling turned upside-down in business and in life, use this time to position yourself as a thought leader that is grounded and resilient. It won't just serve you, your team, and your clients at this moment, but for many years to come.