|Keeping Your Business Healthy|
In order to maintain your business and see it grow year after year, you have to keep yourself in the public eye. In the event planning business, there is a saying:
You are only as good as your last event.
Your last event, done well, will keep people talking about you for about a week or two. After that, they forget. It is vital to keep yourself in the public eye. There are various ways to accomplish this.
Establish a relationship with your local media: television, local papers, and magazines. Get publication credits anywhere you can.
Create a Web site. If you do not have one already, build one or hire someone to create it for you. Do not skimp here. A well-designed and professional looking Web site is often a future client's first introduction to you.
Write a blog and attach it to your main Web site.
Connect your Web site to as many other sites as you can.
Attend trade shows.
Attend conferences and conventions.
Volunteer, even when you already are established.
A blog entry gives you a reason to contact your clients. You are giving them good and interesting information. Once you have contact information, it is a good idea to include everyone on your mailing list, unless someone specifically requests to be removed. Sending timely and helpful information keeps you front and center in the minds of your former and current clients. Even better, give them a choice to subscribe to your feed; that way, they will get your blogs two to three times a week. By keeping in touch this often, you will seem more immediate to them. When they need your services again, your name will be comfortable and familiar to them.
The following is a blog entry by Liene at Blue Orchid Designs:
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Weddings are meant to be a fun celebration and it's no secret that an open bar (and a good deejay or band, of course) can keep a dance floor packed. Many couples have some guests who are underage and while everyone knows they are not legally supposed to drink until 21, we all know that most do.
Because of this, the wedding venues in Scottsdale and Phoenix can and will randomly card guests when they come to the bar. They are not trying to rain on your parade, they are trying to keep their jobs. This isn't an issue for most guests because they usually have their ID's with them in purses or wallets. Your bridal party, however, will most likely leave their personal belongings at the location you got ready in. Make sure to let them know ahead of time that they'll need to have their drivers license with them so they don't run into issues later of not being served. You can also gift your bridesmaids with a cute clutch to hold their ID and lip gloss in during the reception.
Another occurrence that tends to happen at weddings is that underage drinkers will have a parent or older friend get a drink from the bar and bring it to them at their table. While you can't necessarily control this, you know your guests and probably have a pretty good idea of who would go this route in order to drink. Make sure they know not to do so. The servers and banquet captains are trained to keep an eye out for these situations and if the guests continue after a warning, the property can (and will) have them escorted off premises by security and can (and will) shut your bar down for the rest of the wedding (and yes, you can still be billed in full for it). It may seem harsh, but a resort that bills upwards of a million dollars annually in alcohol sales is not going to risk losing their liquor license for the entire property over some underage drinking at your wedding.
|What to Do When Things Go Wrong|
Even the very best of events can have something go wrong. It is actually important to plan for something to go wrong, such as inclement weather or other emergency. Before the event, consider all the possibilities in terms of contingency plans. However, even the best of us cannot possibly speculate on everything that can go wrong at an event. Your biggest challenge will be to keep your cool and know what to do. In fact, by considering every possible thing that can go wrong, you will have to come up with some solutions and manage to keep things going. One floral designer always brings extra flowers to an event just in case. There was an event in which there were not enough boutonnières for the groomsmen of the wedding party. The floral designer quickly whipped up the missing items and the photographs commenced. One bride took one look at her bouquet and stated that she hated it. The wedding designer remained calm, said, "This is your day. What do you want in it?" and proceeded to re-create the entire bouquet on the spot.
Another event disaster occurred when the cake fell on the floor while being transported to the banquet hall. Quick-thinking helpers picked up the cake, removed the top layer, replaced the fondant icing, and redecorated. The cake was slightly late in delivery, but none of the guests ever noticed the delay.
Do not give up. Always believe that you will succeed. Plan for every eventuality. Remember, however, that there is no such thing as a perfect event. Some things will be entirely outside of your control. Be flexible. Be able to think on your feet.
If the event still goes wrong despite all your precautions, own up to any responsibility you may have and apologize. You may even have to negotiate a generous discount if the event is severely disrupted because of your negligence. It is better to give a discount than to get a really hateful recommendation for your next client.
|Shoot for Success|
The best way to achieve high levels of success in this field is to learn as much about it as you possibly can. There are many courses available at colleges and universities, locally and online, that are helpful to event planners, including classes in personal development, business, team building, and customer service.
Always provide the service that you promise. Do not promise what you cannot do. Use a written contract and make sure you stick to it. Keep good records and keep your word. Find your niche, the area of this field in which you shine. This is what you do best; stick with it. The worst special event planners are the generalists, the ones who believe that they can do everything equally well. They do manage to develop a level of competency, but the ones who really excel find their specialty and stick with it.
Develop a well-trained and reliable staff or team. This alone will save you thousands of dollars and great amounts of anxiety and heartache. When you design an event, you do it on paper. When the event is put into action, you rely on people to create the vision. If your team is good, you will achieve great results.
Walk through your events before they start. Pretend you do not know where the registration desk is, or where the breakout session rooms are. If you cannot easily find them and you are in charge, imagine what your client's guests will feel when they arrive. Stay ahead of the game and always be ready with Plan B in case you have a problem.
Above all, make your clients happy. Listen to them, and see their vision. When you design the event, create it for them. This is never ever about you. It is all about your client and what he or she wants. You are getting paid to make dreams come true. Be sure that you remember this always.
|Planning and Looking Ahead|
Your business will grow as much as you want it to as long as you remember to focus on the following questions:
Is the demand for my services what I expect? Greater? Less?
Have I found the specialty that best showcases my abilities and talents?
Do I have a large enough rainy-day fund?
Is my business plan something I review annually?
Am I priced to meet the needs of this market?
Is my team well-trained and loyal?
Is customer service of paramount importance for us?
If not, how can I make it so?
Am I marketing my business effectively?
If not, what else can I do?
Me: You say your girls have to have good customer service, what does that mean to you?
C: We only take so many events a month because we are a service-rendered company. I feel that in order for me to invest in my client and give them the proper time, I can only do two events a month. My girls can also only do two events a month, tops. I am not able to spread myself too thin, being the owner of the company and still give my clients the constant availability. I could be doing 30 events a month if I wanted to do something every single night. Most events are on the weekends, but there is Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and then multiply that by four. I restrict myself to doing only two events per month for my own sanity, for my personal benefit, and for the client's personal benefit, so time management, number one. We have to be able to be at the client's beck and call. That is probably our biggest point in customer service. My motto that all my staff knows and I say this over and over and over again: "Come to me with solutions, not more problems."
Me: I like that!
C: They have to try to figure things out for the client. "This is the problem, and this is how I'm solving it, and here are our options, and here is how we can move forward." Rather than them coming to me saying, "This is our problem, what do you want me to do about it?"
Me: When you're doing that many events a month, what do you do when someone comes to you and says, "I need something in a week." Would you likely refer them to someone else?
C: If I weren't booked for the month, and if it is doable…my summers are slow here in Arizona. If I had the time to do it, then of course I would do it. It would be a rush fee, it would be a little chaotic, but I also thrive on chaos, on that excitement and anxiety, enthusiasm, and energy. I love that. I would certainly take the job if it is a good match for me and do without too much difficulty.
Me: What if you were to get sick during a huge event, what happens?
C: One thing that we really try to do is to make sure that we document everything, so that if I were to drop off the face of the Earth, that someone could come in and take over and it would be completely seamless. I'm really good about documentation and tracking everything. We put a lot of time into putting together a master timeline for our clients to look at and a lot of training with the other girls, so we certainly have coverage in case of an emergency.
Me: Do you rely on the girls who are in your company, or would you have to call someone from outside?
C: It would be within my company. The subcontractors and employees who have been with me for several years know how we work. It has never happened where I've been sick, or have had to miss something, but I have one person who has been with me from the get-go and she is my event lead in all my events and we work together as a team, so she would specifically know how to take the stick and go for it.
For people who have never planned a special event in their lives, the idea of planning even a small cocktail party seems overwhelming. That is why the field of special event planning is growing by leaps and bounds. This is a huge field, and it is a misconception that it is not.
In order to be successful, you have to be good with your time management because you can get inundated with craziness on a constant basis. Most people think, "Oh, you're an event planner, you have such a fun job!" The real truth is that about 10 percent of the job is pure fun. The rest of it is a lot of work, tears, babysitting, hand-holding, people not trusting you, then trusting you. It is a lot harder than most people think. It is a labor of love.
If you have a lot of enthusiasm and a love for it, you are going to be successful. Now get out there and plan your next spectacular event!