“Sales sell the dream, operations deliver the nightmare.”
The truth behind what lies beneath the humor of this recent quote from conference expert Ciara Feely often turns out to be quite the opposite of the ideal conference outcome.
Despite the best intentions of planners and venue management, there’s a frequent disconnect between what’s dreamed up in the initial stages of event planning and what is actually executed. Though this is common, the finger is often pointed at the venue for miscommunications.
To better bridge that gap and bring venue operations into alignment with planner dreams, Ciara recently surveyed over 100 event planners to uncover the most common causes of these rifts. She released her findings at this year’s IACC conference in New York City at Convene.
Problem #1: Failure to Meet Expectations
Rooms not set up in the desired fashion, space unavailable at the expected time, food not being served as anticipated: it may come as no surprise that a venue’s failure to meet the expectations of event planners tops the list of event day stressors.
But a failure to deliver may be more a result of miscommunication than improper follow through. In other words, this most common grievance may be entirely avoidable if both vendors and planners define and share their expectations in full detail in advance.
The solution: Feely recommends venue coordinators initiate the practice of clear communication and timelines from the first phone call. “Let me walk you through what the next few weeks will be like should you sign the contract today,” is language that not only sets a precedent for constant communication from the outset, but establishes another critical ingredient for event success—trust between the event planner and the venue operations team.
Problem #2: Slow Response Times
To better establish clear communication and build trust , venues also need to streamline their response times. Without defining expectations around when to respond and the mode of communication, venues and planners risk major mishaps before and during the event.
The solution: Feely recommends establishing an internal communication plan on the venue team, from sales to the switchboard, that’s as clear and comprehensive as the conversation with the client. A designated point-of-contact with a direct line will establish an instant communication vehicle for the client allowing them to worry less and trust more. Delegating which team members speak to the client about certain tasks and when is also strategic thinking. If every person involved in the planning process is already on the same page, responses can be easily expedited.
Problem #3: Difficulty Booking Space
Finally, event and meeting planners want venues to make it easier to book their spaces—the more information provided upfront, the better. Planners are already saddled with a lot of research to do so it seems like a daunting task if they need to spend more time searching for the answers they need. Unresponsive or incomplete websites add to their frustration and could cause them to pass venues over.
The solution: Venues should be both transparent and complete in terms of information provided. Think room layouts, pricing, policies and an FAQ. This initial presentation helps build trust, even from a distance, making the eventual inquiry much easier to convert into a sale. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for event planners to visualize their event in the venue. Anticipatory service plays a huge role here and is important in keeping existing business as well as winning new. It is all about knowing what your client’s wants and needs are before they do.
Although it is often times complicated, the gap between event planning and execution can be bridged without frustration, headaches—or nightmares. It is possible if venues can streamline the process through clear communication, transparency and most importantly, established trust.