Last minute event planning is a bad idea for so many reasons.
- It’s tougher to find venues.
- The client’s preferred venue will likely be booked.
- Clients will end up paying more for hotels, resorts and airfare.
- Planning at the last minute increases the likelihood of errors.
- In the rush to plan, important details may be overlooked.
The pressure that accompanies last-minute event planning and its twin, last-minute changes, contribute to making event planning one of the most stressful professions. (Unfortunately, event coordinator made Careercast’s most stressful jobs list again. It’s number 5 for 2018.)
Trying to educate clients about why they should plan events with more lead time hasn’t worked. (I’ve written a number of blog posts to convince organizations to change their approach—and I’m not the only one.)
Clearly, no one is listening. So, to preserve their own health and sanity, event industry professionals need to try a different approach.
1. Reach out to regular clients proactively and let them know of some options that may meet their requirements.
This may encourage earlier bookings.
2. Say “no.”
All the money in the world is not worth it if it takes a toll on your health and disrupts your family life.
3. Manage expectations and set boundaries.
This is a message that needs to be conveyed more often. It’s important to be flexible and provide exceptional client service, but there have to be boundaries.
This is important. I don’t recall who said it but it’s sound advice: “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.”
If a client has left a booking until the last minute, it doesn’t mean that you should work all night and every weekend until the event in order to achieve the impossible. This flies in the face of current practices in the industry. It is intended to encourage event planners to carefully consider which assignments they accept and which ones they bypass.
4. Identify what is realistic.
Internal corporate event planners usually don’t have the option of saying no. As an internal planner, it’s all about compromise. Identify what’s realistic. Review the client’s expectations and be candid about what is and isn’t possible within the allotted time. Do your best to come to a workable and more manageable agreement.
As an external planner, it may mean that you lose the business. Is it better to lose business or sacrifice your health?
Pinpoint the tasks that need to be completed and identify joint accountabilities. I can’t take credit for it. Alan Weiss came up with the concept. My tweak is that one should never be afraid to reverse-delegate time-consuming tasks when faced with a last-minute booking.
5. Create templates for all aspects of event planning from supplier requests to catering.
Work with the client to quickly fill in the blanks.
6. Marshall additional resources and charge the client accordingly.
If you need to hire extra help, say so. Let the client know what that will cost. If they don’t want to pay it, move on.
7. Charge a premium.
Planning a last-minute event should be considered a premium service. Whether your premium is 5% or 10%, it conveys your value and may encourage clients to book earlier.
8. Ensure that you are paid in advance.
Some clients book at the last minute and then indicate that they can’t pay until well after the event. In this situation, you’re setting yourself up. I have had colleagues accept last-minute bookings and agree to a late payment schedule. They’ve jumped through hoops, burned the candle at both ends and ended up not getting paid or receiving less than the agreed upon amount. Rushing to plan an event at the last minute increases the likelihood that the client won’t be satisfied. They could push back on rates or delay your payment.
9. Build in downtime to re-charge after the event.
Rushing to plan a last-minute event is stressful. For this reason, it is important for event planners to build recovery time into their schedules. Identify the strategies that work for you and apply them regularly.
A radical change in mindset
This is radical thinking in an industry that places a premium on service, however, stress and burnout among event planners is at crisis levels. Radical surgery and a change of mindset are necessary.
Both Stephen Covey and Dr. Phil McGraw have said that we treat people how to treat us by what we tolerate. By failing to set boundaries, the abuse will continue and event coordinator will continue to make the list of most stressful careers alongside enlisted personnel and firefighters, year after year. We can keep burning out our have the courage to work with our clients to make the changes that are needed to ensure the health and welfare of event and meeting planners.