“What? Did she really just say that? What kind of professional is she?”
I can literally hear the gasps (and did hear the gasps in the room at an event at which I was speaking) when I said this.
Look, after 20-plus years, 600-plus weddings, and 1,000-plus corporate events, I’ve had my share of crisis-addicted, control-freak moments obsessing about “what if” that call was something that could make or break the event, and I generally answered every single call (with or without Caller ID). I mean, what if not answering that one call doomed the event, an event partner, my client, and/or my entire branding and reputation? Let me tell you right now: Amateurs dwell in fear from lack of experience and insecurity. World-class professional leaders dwell in experience, confidence, trust and the big picture.
Know Your Priorities.
As King/Queen Pin Leader of the entire event, you are the leader--on an executive level.
Executives prioritize. Allowing a call to go to voicemail so you can sift through and prioritize its importance allows you to do what you were hired to do: oversee the masterpiece you created and tend to the overall big picture. It is imperative you do this. No one else is responsible for it but you.
You can’t do this if you are bogged down in the trenches with everyone’s needs. And truly, wedding planners and event producers are seen (even if subconsciously) by everyone as almost being required to solve everyone’s problems. But here’s a hint: see the point below about “The Reality.” If they know that you aren’t there to instantly solve their dilemma, they are forced to, as I tell my 14-year-old, “F.I.O” (figure it out). And sometimes that’s all that’s needed.
The Reality: Folks Generally Can Self-Problem Solve When You Enable Them To.
When I look at the literally hundreds of thousands of calls and texts I’ve received over the years on event day, I can honestly answer this without exception: I have never had a crisis left for me on voicemail that did not self-correct within literally minutes.
The “crisis” on someone else’s part was 99 percent of the time not an issue for me to solve. But as the wedding planner, everyone sees you (whether it’s right or not) as the answer to everything--even issues that are specifically not yours (or may actually be distracting for you to solve in that particular moment). I always let it go to voicemail.
Consider Experience, Prevention and Trust.
As an executive leader, you have more than learned what the leading crises are that happen from experience and as the consummate professional, you know that your job is to predict crises before they happen. So all your hard work in product delivery, installation, strike, measuring, scheduling, design, and more has happened in collaboration with your event partner (vendor) team in the months preceding the event, including multiple site visits and final confirmations the week of and the day before the event.
You do this to prevent crises so you can do your job properly and tend to your client with incredible customer experience day-of. And you trust your event partners, who are top of their field--to do their jobs. (And if you don’t trust your event partners, you are not working with the right people and/or you need to have a policy where your clients agree to only work with those you recommend—but that’s a whole other blog and speaking engagement).
Remember the Customer Experience.
I am often in the middle of something from which I cannot be distracted. My personal attention to my clients, getting them down the aisle on time and organized takes skill and laser focus. That is the priority over answering a phone call.
Amateurs sweat the details day-of because they did not know to plan for them in advance. Professionals go into the day knowing their role and confident in the planning and prevention that happened in advance. Customers feel this confidence and it makes them more relaxed, too.
About Those Calls …
Now, before you go get your knickers in a knot about how I let calls go to voicemail on my phone on event days, let’s be clear: I never abandon my event partners.
I just have learned how to manage crises in advance so well that there is 99.9 percent chance of none day-of. Anything else that comes up day-of, I prioritize in my response. And nine times out of 10, the question has answered itself before I ever get a chance to get back to the inquirer, so the space I leave in between the caller’s call/message and when I respond allows the situation to breathe and self-correct. In the remote chance that there is an issue, it’s important to remember to respond and not react.
Try as we may, we cannot script life, and even with the best plans, the unexpected can happen, as we all know too well. That’s why we are rock stars and super heroes unlike any other industry: We can take nothing and make it something, and we can take crises and turn them into epic wins.
Because you are the executive consummate professional, and helped prevent all the other crises in advance, you will be available to deal with the real ones--should they occur--like the super hero you are.
But really, if you want to get in front of me day of an event for a crisis or question, just text me or radio me, where it goes right into my earpiece.
Kerry Lee Doehr is CEO/founder of event planning business Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings and Events, as well as Engaging Inspiration, a consultancy dedicated to leadership, communications and education for the special event and hospitality industry. She is committed to progress in the industry that goes beyond trend and design, saying, "Who we are and how we handle ourselves ethically is more of a barometer to business longevity and branding than all the money in the world spent on advertising."