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Amanda Miller

‘What Can I Do for You Right Now?’ CSI Shares 30 Lessons Learned in 30 Years

The top team from CSI DMC shares 30 important lessons they have learned--what don't you know?

Since our start on Capitol Hill in 1987, we’ve grown to a team of 76 employees with offices and strategic partnerships across the country and around the globe. Although we’ve grown tremendously from our humble beginnings 30 years ago, rest assured that our clients’ experience remains unchanged. We provide an exceptional experience, every time, anywhere. We know we can deliver on this commitment because of the talent and experience of the staff that represent the CSI brand.

We’ve learned a lot in the past 30 years while creating and executing events, and in celebration of this milestone, we’d like to share with all of you a compilation of the most impactful lessons our seasoned team has learned. Enjoy!

1.  No matter what kind of day you are having, smile.  Positive energy breeds positive energy, which creates positive experiences, allowing people to feel comfortable and want to do business with you.

2.   Put a personal touch on everything you do, whether it’s proposals, site visits, or just a phone call. People will remember your extra effort.

3.  No matter how casual your client may be, your language and demeanor should always be professional.

4. The special events industry is a small community. Make sure your conduct reflects that reality.

5.  Things are never going to go exactly as you planned. Accept this, and you will have the clear mind needed to develop solutions to challenges that arise.

6.  There is always going to be a lesson learned, no matter how perfect the event might have gone.

7.  A warm welcome is essential! Ensure that your first impression is in line with the tone you want to set for a program.

8.  Be kind and courteous to everyone. People may forget your name but they will remember how you treated them.

9.  Send handwritten thank you notes--it’s a lost art that helps you stand out.

10. “Swim in your own lane.” None of us can do it all well, so allow those who are experts outside of your field be a resource or partner, and let them do what they do best.

11. Make sure to confirm changes and updates in writing and orally with both clients and vendors to avoid confusion down the road.

12.  Always factor in more time for travel and parking.

13. Never let a client see you run.  In any crisis, you need to portray that you have the situation under control in order to keep your client and vendors thinking clearly in order to find a solution--and there is always a solution!

14. All parties on site are part of an integral team that will work together to create exceptional events.  Always support every part of that team and step in to assist, even if it’s “not your job.”

15. Rely on your internal support system to help through tough times. Your colleagues are your best assets when you need new ideas or help onsite.

16.  Creativity and flexibility set you apart from your competitors. Your willingness to do something new and different goes a long way.

17.  Always have a Plan B--not just in the instance of weather but in entertainment, transportation, street closures, etc.

18. Don’t let a tight budget extinguish your creativity right off the bat. Sometimes people find more value in good ideas than they originally thought!

19. Own up to your mistakes, learn from them, and then move on.

20. Train and empower your contract staff, and always pay them on time. They are a direct representation of you.

21. Keep in mind the guest experience.  It’s so easy to veer away from the goals of an event when creativity takes hold, so it’s important to sometimes take a step back and ask, “What will the guest walk away with thinking?”

22.  Always review specific dates with your clients and vendors to ensure all parties are on the same page (and the same date)!

23. Being an active member of an industry group is vital to your success.  It will make a world of difference for you to be involved in an industry group (ILEA, MPI, etc.).

24. Acting as a mentor to others in our industry is one of the most rewarding ways of giving back. It allows you to push yourself and see others grow as they gain the confidence to take on more.

25.  When engaging with a new client, get to know them and learn their personality, hot buttons, or something unique about them that you can note to remember for the next interaction. Clients remember how you make them feel more than the specifics of a program.

26.  Actively listen to your clients.  Everyone wants to be heard, so slow down your thoughts and listen to your client to fully understand their needs.  Let them know you are listening by doing so actively.  Clients who are truly listened to, get the most appropriate services that exceed expectations, which creates repeat clients and great referrals.

27.  There is always more than meets the eye. Generally, venues for events have behind-the-scenes experiences or additional enhancements that just require a simple ask and can make the final experience that much more memorable!

28.  Be humble; you can’t know it all. And be open to learning and constructive criticism--it only makes you better!

29.  Never assume that someone else took care of it. Double- and triple-check.

30.  And last but not least, an important lesson learned from our founder, Jill McGregor-Hainline: Ask your client, “What can I do for you right now?” Make sure you are there to support them every step of the way and you’ll earn their trust.

Amanda Miller is creative services manager for CSI DMC, a leading destination management and event planning firm headquartered in Washington with offices in the Bahamas, Chicago, Florida, Nashville, Tenn., Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with strategic partnerships worldwide. The company is included on the latest Special Events “25 Top DMCs.” Her focus is on the design of custom thematic events, tour programs and exclusive activities in each of the company’s key destinations and around the globe. She has worked for CSI in several capacities since 2005.

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