Event Life: Finding Security
Recession-proof event planning: Whether you’re independent or in-house, here’s what you need to know to secure your positionby Nicole Suresky | Published in December 2008 economy | employment | Event Life | Departments
Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2008. I finally get “K” on the phone. K knows a lot of people I can do business with. He rattles off contacts at various investment banks. “Have you called so and so at Merrill Lynch?” he asks. He gives me a bunch of names. “There you go,” he says happily. “I helped!”
Sunday, Sept. 14. Bank of America announces that it is buying Merrill Lynch. Lehman Brothers is keeling over. AIG announces a “restructuring plan.”
Tuesday, Sept. 15. K calls. “What good am I?” he asks. “A week has gone by since I gave you all of those leads — and now you can’t call any of them!”
Though the election may have helped inject a much-needed sense of security into the market, the event job market is still tight. How do you secure yours? Two ways: Support your client as you would as a consultant, and be a member of the team — share in the responsibility and make it known that you have a personal stake in the project’s success.
Be Positive in Negative Times
Find a delicate balance in attitude. Too happy and you seem flippant. Too negative and no one will want to work with you. When I went into business for myself, I asked my mentor what one piece of advice I should carry around with me. Wisely, he said, “When everyone else is going crazy, be solid and calm: the eye of the storm.”
When people’s life savings are disappearing, it can be hard to focus them on something like an event, but that’s your job. Recently, I was working on an event and there was a lot of negativity in the room. Attendance was down and everyone felt like things weren’t going to take off. I had to take anything that was said with negativity and turn it around. I had to find encouragement where there wasn’t any, without sounding Pollyannish about it. If someone said we had only X many attendees, even though it was low, I’d say it was double the number from last week. That didn’t turn them into bleacher creatures at Yankee Stadium, but a funny thing happened after awhile: I started creating allies.
P.S.: They got over 200 attendees. The day before the event, they were smiling and had an office pool on how many walk-ins they were going to get.
Offer your Opinion
People start to get nervous in turbulent times because they are afraid they will lose their job if they say the wrong thing. We all have “clients,” whether you’re independent or in-house, and they want your opinion. It’s what they’re paying you for. Channel Emily Post when you explain yourself, please — diplomacy is always respected — but be yourself.
I am quite impassioned when I believe in something. For example, a few weeks away from the above event, the numbers weren’t there, but I knew the event was exactly what the client’s customers needed, even though they hadn’t responded yet. I seemed to be constantly surrounded by about 10 people, all saying, “Should we cancel it and reschedule it?” Things went on until finally, the questions turned to me: “Nicole, what do you think we should do?” And I told them. I told them their customers needed them now more then ever. I felt like Bill Pullman in “Independence Day” right before they fight the aliens: “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight!” I added, “In the end, it’s your decision, and you need to be comfortable, but you’re asking for my thoughts on this, and this is what I think.” And they went forth and prospered.
Don’t be afraid of offering your opinion, fearing that you’ll be blamed if you’re wrong. Instead, get buy-in from the group and make it a group decision. Then you’ve supported the team and made yourself a vested member who brings value.
Be a Solution
When I sit in conference rooms where people arrive with tons of questions and no solutions, I see senior executives look at them with laser beams shooting out of their eyes that are screaming “So what’s your point?” As rough as these times are, it’s an opportunity to be a solution. To put in extra time on a project. To offer an opinion where you normally wouldn’t. Clients don’t pay for dead weight. They pay for solutions.
If you can offer a point of view, a solution, anything to help clients be successful in this economy, nine out of 10 times they will consider you essential and find somewhere in the budget to accommodate you.