The Art of Urgency


The Art of Urgency

“Never let them see you sweat.” This was the advice of my first boss when I was just a baby event planner in New York.  We had overbooked one of the kitchens in the event space I was responsible for and my panic was written all over my face.  I have spent the last 10+ years working on that.

With event planning being such a high stress job, I get asked often where most of that stress comes from.  I can consolidate it into this statement – the need for urgency.

Issue? Fix it.  Something got missed in the planning? Fix it.  On the day of the event, time is of the essence and the number one rule of being an event planner is to trouble shoot and do it quickly.  If you lack a sense of urgency, this is not the profession for you.

When I was in high school and even college I had lots of odd jobs to make extra money.  College kids love to caddy to fill their summers with extra cash.  That may be the only thing I knew about golf before 2014.  “Emily. we are going to start hosting a golf outing and we want you to plan it.”  Those were the words I heard from one of my favorite clients a little over two years ago.  I, of course, agreed – and off I was on a new organizing adventure.  At least I knew what a caddy was. 

I was reminded of this recently at a golf outing we planned in Greenwich, CT.  My story is based on the one competency that I actually had around golf, caddies.  Golf outings come with their own unique set of last minute foursome changes, missing indexes, and the normal stuff that goes along with any event.  As usual we reviewed the BEO (for non – event peeps this is the document a venue gives you to confirm all the details of your event in writing.  It is also known as a banquet event order) and went on our merry way.  All the essentials were in there and checked.  The number of golfers, all our food and beverage selections, the price of rental clubs and our request for caddies.  I gave the green light to approve the contract and got ready to get up bright and early to set up registration.

Fast forward 12 hours and the golfers arrive, registration runs smoothly, and the foursomes get in their golf carts and get ready to hit the green.  My client leans over and says – we don’t have caddies.  What?  How do you not have caddies?  It was in our contract.  

As I launched myself into fix it mode, my client went to go and talk to a few of the country club employees in an effort to find a solution. They were casually eating their lunch and basically didn’t give my client the time of day when she was voicing her concerns over our caddie – less situation.  No one was looking to place blame, all we wanted was a solution.

What made this situation go from bad to worse was the lack of urgency on the part of the people who could have helped us fix the problem.  I was getting ready to jump in a golf cart and start going from foursome to foursome to make sure everyone knew how to keep score, what to do, etc.  The club employees just sat there and shrugged their shoulders.

Ultimately the club took responsbility and did what they could to make the situation right.  At the end of the day this situation would not have escalated the way it did if my client felt that this situation was being addressed urgently.

Here are some tips to help manage urgent situtaions with finesse and professionalism.

  1. Acknowledge their concerns: the absolute worst thing you can do it brush off your clients concerns with a shrug of your shoulders.  Even if you don’t immediately have a solution, address that you heard their problems, and you are going to work on finding a solution right away.
  2. Know who to call:  hiring the right partners means you have a point of contact who can help you trouble shoot when issues arise.  Select people as partners, not vendors, and lean on them when you are in trouble to help find your solution.
  3. Keep the client updated: regardless if you have fixed the problem or not, it will make a bad situation worse if you do not keep your client in the loop about what is going on.
  4. After the event, recognize the issues that occurred:  taking responsibility, even when the issue is not your fault is small business 101.  After the event, either in the post mortem reporting process, or even a general conversation, acknowledge the issue that took place, how you solved it, and the opportunities to learn from the problem in the future.  It will only help build the relationship.

How do you deal with stressful event mishaps and situations?  Read my blog post about how clients being unhappy sends ice water through my veins.  Need an event planning team that just won’t quit?  Email Ellie today.


The 10 Types of Planners in the Plannerverse