Client Relations: Getting the Best Reception for Your Design

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Four exercises to help you get the right data

Asking your clients what is most important to them at an event might reveal some surprises, but will always point you in the right direction. Image: A lady in waiting at a Louis XIV event we produced. Photo: Robert Benson

Asking your clients what is most important to them at an event might reveal some surprises, but will always point you in the right direction. Image: A lady in waiting at a Louis XIV event we produced via Robert Benson

If you are working with social clients, there’s a good chance they may never have talked to an event professional before. Let alone considered how to begin the daunting process of planning a wedding, a 50th birthday extravaganza or golden anniversary.

Quite a few years ago, I realized that the process of designing an event can be convoluted, unfocused and, quite frankly, so all over the board that I would sometimes sit there listening to a client, scratching my head and saying to myself, “I really don’t think they know what it is that they want!” It was then that I realized to build a great building one needs a solid foundation, and that foundation is data. Think of it as a verbal Pinterest board.

The Four Exercises for Success:

  1. The List of Ten
  2. Demographics
  3. I Like, I Don’t Like
  4. Event Statement

The List of 10 — The Important Questions to Ask

Ask the client to make a list of everything that lives at a party – venue, invitations, catering, bar services, flowers, décor, photography, entertainment, linens, valet, live flamingos, etc., you get the idea. You could even start them off with a list of the basics.

Then ask them to list each item in the order of importance to them. With this list in hand, you can see right in front of you exactly where their priorities lie. Talk to them honestly. If Items nine or 10 will cost them more money, time and effort than how much they actually care about those items, then have them set them aside and go on to those that they do care about. Chances are that those live flamingos aren’t as important until they have all the other items in place. Then you can revisit the nines and tens together again and see if they are still a must.

We share with our clients that currency comes in many forms, whether cash, time or effort. Help them to refocus and spend their money, time and effort on what IS important to them. You’re never going to know what is important to them if you don’t ask, right?

Demographics – Who are you entertaining?

Diet Coke knows who’s watching NBC at 7 p.m. on Thursday nights, that’s why they play that commercial. Your client should also be aware of who his or her audience is, so to speak, and play to them.

Events can flop when they are designed to be all about the host. An experienced host knows very well that to make an event a success make it all about your guest, not yourself! If you “wine and dine” them and make them feel special, they will remember what a great party it was. And, believe me that’s exactly what they will tell their friends too. Best advertising you’ll ever get is word-of-mouth.

Let’s take a wedding, for instance. One side of the family is well-heeled, well-moneyed, well-traveled and live in “The City,” they have seen and done it all. The other side of the family are the nicest, warmest salt-of-the-earth type folks. Then add the relatives coming from Bulgaria and you have some really odd bedfellows. What do you do?

Or, your client might want more traditional fare such as steak and potatoes, yet still appreciate an inspired presentation. Image: Spice Roast Carrots, Parmesan Crumb, Pine Nuts, Bellwether Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Photo: Andrew Spurgin

Or, your client might want more traditional fare such as steak and potatoes, yet still appreciate an inspired presentation. Image: Spice Roast Carrots, Parmesan Crumb, Pine Nuts, Bellwether Sheep’s Milk Yogurt via Andrew Spurgin

Sure you have your work cut out for you, but find a common thread. Plan, design and create based on the ethos that everyone feels comfortable, are not intimidated, and relaxed and ready to have a great time.

What if I consulted with you on procuring the perfect dress and I didn’t listen as to what you like, didn’t do my homework, then proceeded to fit you for a size 12 yellow dress. You dislike yellow and wear a size two (lucky you). I did not do my job and here is what will happen: You’re going to be uncomfortable, tug at the dress all night, not have a good time. It’s the same with a party, you just weren’t into it, it wasn’t fun, and you just waited for the cake to be cut and left. I refer to this as “the party where I didn’t know which fork to use”.

The Like, Don’t Like List — Your Shopping List

Of all these “exercises,” this is the one that is not only telling, but is one of the best things you can do to capture the mind-set of your client. It reveals what they really want, yet may not know it yet.

Sometimes clients don’t know what they like until they see it. Add the unexpected. This actress was our guest check in receptionist at a 1969 office party ala Mad Men. Photo: Andrew Spurgin

Sometimes clients don’t know what they like until they see it. Add the unexpected. This actress was our guest check-in receptionist at a 1969 office party a la Mad Men. Photo via Andrew Spurgin

Ask them to grab a pen and piece of paper. If it’s a wedding couple, grab two – you will need both people for this.

Make two columns. Label one “I Like” and one “I Don’t Like.” Have part of the list all culinary, part all beverage. The rest of the list is completely random and abstract. Write down all that you like on the left side and all you aren’t so keen on the right. The more information you list, the better the event!

Examples – I Like: Oysters. I Don’t Like: Tripe. I Like: Elephants. I Don’t Like: Clowns. I Like: Pantone Radiant Orchid. I don’t like: Brown.

With all this data in hand essentially all we do is connect the dots to create the perfect event. It’s almost like someone hands you a piece of paper with some holes cut out of it, lay it over all that data and the words appear and say “This is the party you should be doing”. Like I said, it’s like a verbal Pinterest board.

Event Statement – What’s the take away?

Okay, so you’ve gone through these four steps with your clients. What is the final element to really honing in on getting them the event they want? I ask them to write down an “Event Statement,” like a mission statement for a business; only this one answers this one question — What do they want guests to take away with them?

Your client may not know what they want, but if you follow this time tested approach to data gathering you may well hear them say “Wow, how did you know that this was exactly what we wanted?” It’s not rocket science, we just connected the dots…

 

ASpurgin_WebAndrew Spurgin is the Owner of Andrew Spurgin™ in San Diego, CA and renowned consultant to the catering and foodservice industries. He also created bespoke events – from concept, styling, menu design and vendor brokering – as well as other related focus areas. He is also a co-creator of Chef’s Roll, responsible for building the largest chef network in the world by providing culinary professionals the tools to promote their craft in a sophisticated and cost-effective way.

Originally posted on Designdawgs

About the author : Event Solutions

Event Solutions

Since 1996, Event Solutions has been giving corporate, association and independent event and meeting professionals the resources they need to navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the industry. From cutting-edge features on trends and technologies to behind-the-scenes profiles of some of the industry’s most prestigious events, we provide professionals with the resources they need to succeed.

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