Read on for tips from an experienced corporate event planner.

Rarely does an event come together perfectly. Maybe the budget isn’t realistic. Or the weather isn’t cooperating. Sometimes the venue isn’t the right choice, but it’s the only option available on the client’s dates and within its budget. What do you do in these circumstances? How do you fulfill the client’s vision?

Some things you can address ahead of time and possibly influence. Other things will have to be dealt with as they come up. And if you do it right, most clients will never have to know about those less-than-ideal circumstances. The trick is to make it look easy. Here are a few tips to help you do that.

  1. Be candid during the planning process. What may be common sense to one person isn’t even a thought to another person. If the timeline, location, budget or even goals of the event are not realistic, the time to address this is in the briefing meeting. Show, don’t tell. Use previous examples or do simple math to illustrate your points. Set expectations and explain the challenges so there are no surprises.
  2. Almost everything is negotiable – even when it seems it’s not. And money isn’t the only asset you can negotiate for. What do you need to make your event run more smoothly? A price break? An extra hour? Room upgrades? Earlier delivery? A different spot? Credentials for easier access? Remember – you can always ask. The worst that will happen is you get a “no.” (BUT if you are consistently getting a hard no from a vendor, that’s a flag to look for a different vendor AND to plan accordingly for the actual event.)
  3. Be flexible when it comes to getting things done. If one way isn’t working, try another. Don’t get stuck thinking something “has to be” in a certain place or at a certain time. If you feel the only space available is too small, find another space or time. Look at cutting the guest list or reducing food and beverage costs. Look at removing furniture or placing items outside in the hallway (as long as it’s to code). If your brain is stuck, ask for the opinion of the venue manager or a co-worker or intern.
  4. “What would you do if you were me?” is one of my favorite questions to ask vendors when they tell me something can’t happen or went wrong and they don’t have a suggestion to fix it. Don’t ask this question in a confrontational way, but rather in an honest, “I need you to help me” way. Sometimes people get so caught up in “No” or “That’s impossible” they don’t think about other solutions. By asking that question, it helps reorient their point of view as well as lets them know you value their opinion.
  5. If you’re asking for the impossible with every expectation of it becoming possible, acknowledge this to your vendor or staff. And follow it up with tangible appreciation. This makes people more willing to jump through hoops for you.
  6. Be prepared and always be on-site to handle the hiccups. Don’t delegate this to an inexperienced colleague or trust it to a vendor. If you can’t be there, be available to answer questions from your experienced, well-prepped colleague in case of an emergency. For outdoor events, budget for weather gear (ponchos, tarps, fans, heaters, etc.).
  7. Smile, stay positive and have solutions at the ready. No matter what, as an event manager, it’s your job to be graceful under pressure. That’s not to say you shouldn’t convey a sense of urgency or importance when it’s called for. But that should be done sparingly for maximum influence.

Making an event happen in ideal circumstances can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking. Don’t do that to yourself – call Vela today and let our event staff handle all the details instead!