The Day-Of Planning Dilemma

Posted July 14, 2011

Here’s an advance peek at my next In Business column for Event Solutions magazine.

“I think I can plan the event myself.  I just want to hire you to be there the day of the event.  You know, just to make sure everything goes smoothly.”

If I had a dollar every time an event planner was told this by a potential client, I’d be sipping cocktails on a beach in the Caribbean.  Forever.  Because I’d be able to own the island.  (Tell me I’m wrong).

The Planner Wanna-Be

For better or worse, this is reality, and complaining about it is like trying to hold back the tide.  These are the facts:

  1. There are lots of clients who are planner wanna-be’s,  That’s good, because it means we have cool jobs that people want to emulate.
  2. The wanna-be’s know that their event is too important to do it completely on their own, and know they need some level of professional support (even if it’s just day-of).  So let’s say there’s this final 15% of the planning process where they perceive enough value in what we do that they’re willing to pay for it.  That’s also good.
  3. But the wanna-be’s don’t perceive enough value in the other 85%.  And that’s not good.
  4. There will always be SOMEONE who’ll take a few bucks to show up ‘day of’ and try to be some kind of security blanket to the client.  That’s neither good nor bad; it just is.

[One way to look at these wanna-be’s is not so much as full paying clients who now want to just pay for day of, and instead think of them as an entirely new market sector who never would have hired anyone at all.  The market for planner services has grown, and this kind of thing is an inevitable step.]

That said, the biggest challenge planners face in showing up the ‘day of’ is that you’re literally walking into an event planning s**t storm.  It’s like being given a Stop sign, a whistle and a pair of white gloves and being asked to direct traffic at the roller derby.

Option 1: Educate the Client on the Value of Full-Service Planning

Odds are this is the crux of the problem.  Look, if you got arrested, you’d never think of saying to your attorney, “I think I can handle my defense myself (I was on the Debate Team, you know), but I’d like to hire you to just sit next to me the day of the trial.  To make sure things go smoothly.”

Can an attorney provide SOME value showing up the day of the trial?  Yeah, but given what’s on the line, wouldn’t you prefer he look at the case files in advance?  Of course you would, because you’re smart enough to know that you don’t know law.  So your job here, is to educate the client on all that goes into the planning process to insure a successful event.

Space constraints prohibit me from doing so here, but here’s a suggestion to help you out:  start keeping a journal and jot down all the things you do that a typical wanna-be doesn’t realize you do.  The list will grow quickly.

This is part of the value you bring to the table, along with your experience, creativity, vendor relationships, etc.  Getting to the point where you realize the full value you offer, and being able to communicate that to a client and stand behind it, is the holy grail of running an event planning business.  It’s the key to everything.

Option 2: Re-Think ‘Day-Of’ as ‘Planning Lite’

Clients came up with the whole day-of idea, but that doesn’t mean we have to stick with it.  What they really want is very limited planning; that last 15%, as some kind of insurance policy against an event disaster.  So how about you re-frame your service offerings as ‘Planning Lite’, and give the client 8 hours the day of the event, plus let’s say 6 hours in advance, broken down into 1 hour calls or meetings with the client every month for the 6 months prior to the event.

This accomplishes two things.  (1) It prevents you from walking in totally blind, and (2) More importantly, it gives you a chance to up-sell the client and convert them into Full-Service Planning along the way.  Each of these 1 hour planning discussions is an opportunity for you to show your stuff, and invariably the client will start to see all the important things you should be doing on their behalf, but can’t, given the limitations of Planning Lite.

If you do go this route, be up front with the client about the limits of what you can accomplish with Planning Lite, and be sure to advise them you can’t be responsible for the event’s success, but you’ll do your best  to make things go as smoothly as you can.

One benefit to this kind of service, is it really forces you to track your time.  When I teach my class on Planner Pricing, regardless of the pricing model people choose, I tell them it’s critical to know how many jobs you can do in a given year, which requires time tracking.

5 COMMENTS

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  1. Howard
    Lorraine Mariella CSEP, CMP
    July 14, 2011 at 10:35 am Permalink

    Another great article…. I always enjoy the insight. When I read your articles I find myself agreeing the whole way and am happy that someone (you) put these thoughts down on paper for the whole industry to share. The question is do I dare share this article with some of my “wanna be planner” clients???

  2. Howard
    justin locke
    July 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm Permalink

    sad to say i have found this to be true of so many clients, whether you’re a locksmith, a video producer, or an event professional. they see us do it and assume that it’s easy. plus their own standards as amateurs are so low, they are happy with their work because they had fun, not noticing what their guests really thought of them. In every business i think one must spend time educating clients. I used to see this as a loss of time, but now i see it as part of sales, as you are explaining the intrinsic value and why they should pay you more.

  3. Howard
    Yvonne szikla
    July 15, 2011 at 12:23 pm Permalink

    That’s a great approach – If I had a dollar for everyone who says after the event, “I had no idea of the time, etc etc” and wished that I had hired someone…. After it is all over, too late!

  4. Howard
    Toby Indech, CSEP
    July 15, 2011 at 12:33 pm Permalink

    We noticed this “emerging market” about 3 years ago with multiple inquiries a week and decided at that time that the service needed to be called “Day of Supervision” rather than “Day of Planning”. Simply, we all know that it takes much more than “a day” to plan and have always been upfront about the limitations of such contracts. Taking on these jobs we must manage client expectations and if you do so effectively these can actually be great jobs for a professional with experience. Someone without appropriate experience, not so much. We also offer the “planning lite” package (we call it “partial planning” , when clients come to us with all vendors contracts already in place) which seems to be much more popular once clients understand the value of our services. I am in agreement that reframing the negativity, and truly educating clients is a part of what professionals need to do. This is the case for any size contract.

  5. Howard
    Danielle
    September 20, 2014 at 2:52 pm Permalink

    Hi Reno,Thanks for the kind words. They’re very encouraging.The font you refer to is Georgia. It’s part of the Times New Roman and Times font-family. Yes the nlermaus are small, but at least you’ll never confuse zero 0 with a capital O, or one 1 with lower case l. It might be before your time, but in the days before computers, many typistes typed the lower case l (as in L) instead of the numeral 1 key. Perhaps it was quicker for them. I can tell you that it used to screw up a lot of computer programs when computers first came in.Your PHP question has taken my fancy. I’m not going to reply to it here, other than to say that it’s a script program that doesn’t need compiling, and it was developed as a server side program for web pages. A PHP interpreter deals with the PHP code if the file name has a .php extension. I’m going to work on a CSS Report page to answer your question in a lot more detail, and it might surprise you.But a quick answer to the other part of your question is that anyone using WordPress does not need to know any HTML, CSS or PHP at all, whether they are running a blog page or an entire website. WordPress takes care of all this as does any of the 1600 free themes you can choose from. However, if you wish to customise your blog page or other pages, you then need to get involved in the HTML, CSS and PHP code. There is a great deal of support to help you.Or you can buy a customised theme created especially for you by a professional but it might cost say, $2,500.Or you can buy Artisteer which can create themes over which you have a great deal of control without any knowledge of the underlying code. But you can only do so within the limits of the program. For example, it seems to have no ability to create a line where you might wish to place one.John