Challenge Your Planner/Vendor for More Creative Results

Posted December 13, 2010

Last Friday Jes Gordon was in the studio taping a class for the Event Leadership Institute

Jes Gordon

(launching next month) called BWWB, short for “Big Wow Within Budget”.  She covered a wide range of interesting tips for making your event more creative without breaking the bank, and covered areas such as food and beverage, lighting, flowers, venue, rentals, furnishings, entertainment, and more.  And, she shared her resources (websites, wholesale vendors, etc.) for where she gets all her good stuff.   But enough with the plugs.

In the prep call a few days earlier, the one area I asked her to add was to “challenge your planner and vendors” to stretch their creative minds for you, and she agreed wholeheartedly.   Looking back over decades of experience, we each agreed that the times our clients pushed us to really go that extra mile creatively were the events we were most proud of.

They were also the times we bitched and moaned and cursed our clients behind their backs because, hey, they were being a pain in the ass.  It was those tough clients who didn’t care if we complained, who didn’t settle for our first (or fourth) round of ideas, who often got the best work out of us.

This reminds me of a story about Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State.  (Is that not the segue of the year?  I’ll buy drinks for anyone who can point out another event industry article that cites Kissinger).  So rumor has it that he asked an aide to do a study on the troop strength of the Vietnamese army (or something).  The aide hands in a nice meaty paper.

The next day Kissinger sends the paper back with a note, “Good initial effort.  But I know you can do better.”  So the aide does deeper research, adds in some more charts and graphs and submits the revised version.

Henry Kissinger

Kissinger sends this one back too.  This time saying, “Great progress!  But still not your best work.  Stay with it, you’re almost there!”  The aide curses and grunts, but he goes back to his sources, finds some more insights and analysis, triple checks his work, and decides to personally hand in this version to his boss.

“Dr. Kissinger,” he says, “I have gone as far as I can with this assignment.  I’ve included more sources than I’ve ever used before and added stronger analysis than I ever thought possible.  This is as good as my paper will get.”

“OK,” Kissinger replies, “In that case, I guess I’ll read it now.”

If your first reaction is that Kissinger was a jerk (which I’m sure he was), you’re missing the bigger picture.  By not settling, he got his aide to produce far superior work than the aide was ready to do.  And he used repeated, positive encouragement that appealed to the aide’s pride in his own craft to dig deep and take his work to the next level.

Of all the people we work with in some capacity, we most appreciate that teacher, coach, boss, trainer, and yes, client, who doesn’t let us settle for mediocrity.  They may not always be liked along the way, but they are paying us the biggest possible compliment by reminding us of the heights we are capable of.

Challenge the people who work for you, whether they’re on your own team or work for outside suppliers.  Really push them to stretch their creative muscles.  They will complain, for sure.  But in the end they will likely thank you.   And they will certainly respect you for helping bring out their best work.

2 COMMENTS

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  1. Howard
    Anne
    December 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm Permalink

    Many clients can be fearful of upsetting or hurting the vendor’s feelings by rejecting their ideas -that they settle for a less than creative event. On the other hand, if disappointment is expressed, it is important for the vendor to not take it personally and be defensive but to offer more suggestions and alternatives.

    Once again, this is a great topic that can be applied to many of life’s situations.

    Just love your thoughts.

  2. Howard
    Lorraine Mariella CSEP, CMP
    December 15, 2010 at 9:47 am Permalink

    Howard I so look forward to your articles, because I knwo they will alwyas contain some great insight – and I was not disapointed with this issue!