Event Planners: It’s Time to Set Boundaries With Your Clients

Event Planners: It’s Time to Set Boundaries With Your Clients

When I transitioned from working for hotels to independent meeting and event planning, I wish I would have known it was OK to set boundaries or charge your clients for additional services. My focus was on providing anticipatory service, versus remembering I was now a small business.  

How many times when planning a meeting or event have you heard: “could you just do one more thing?” And how many times in those situations did you feel like you had nothing left to give? I'm afraid it happens all too often in our industry.

According to Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP:

"Scope creep is when the scope of the project keeps creeping outward, beyond the boundaries and scope of work you have established with the client, without a corresponding change in resources. This phenomenon can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented or controlled."

Rutherford Silvers states in her book Professional Event Coordination that there are six dimensions to the event experience, which directly affect the participant experience:

  • Anticipation
  • Arrival
  • Atmosphere
  • Appetite
  • Activity
  • Amenities

Every time a client asks, “could you just do one more thing?,” we as the meeting or event planner need to decide, is that the best use of resources, and will it enhance the participant experience at your meeting or event? As planners we need to define the scope of work with clear goals and objectives at the start in order to control obligations and be able to evaluate success once the event or meeting is complete.

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These boundaries, like construction cones, are placed on the road to keep the project headed in the right direction. They let you know when you are diverging from the plan so you can make realistic, fact-based decisions about the steps you need to take when scope creep starts to rear its ugly head.

Once the scope of work has been clearly defined and agreed to, we—LoriAnn K. Harnish* and I—highly recommend event planners add a line to the written change order saying “any additional tasks not addressed in the agreement can be accomplished for an additional fee.” Read more tips for handling scope creep via Planning Pod.

Scope creep at meetings and events may occur as a result of:

  • Increase or Decrease in Attendance
  • Enhancements to a Meeting or Event
  • Changes Not in Alignment With Goals

Typically at meetings the scope expands due to an increase or decrease in:

  • Time & Money
  • Delegation and Direction
  • Personal Suppliers
  • Space

And these protected resources are the most abused:

  • Communication
  • Training
  • Serviceability
  • Trends
  • Time
  • Money
  • Human
  • Information

Here are some new resources you may not have thought of:

  • Technology & Training to Use It
  • Volunteers or Retired Employees
  • Internal Resources
  • Interns
  • Outsourcing

Outsourcing can save you money—and some sanity.

It is like waving a magic wand.

As planners we're often too busy to reach for the help we need. Take a moment, take a breath and make the time to contact people who are waiting for your call.

Help is truly just a moment away.

Triage is a process of prioritizing patients based on the severity of their condition. For event planners, triage should be used to weigh the pros and cons of each new request.

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Then you need to determine the best plan of action based on where funds and other resources can be best used, are most needed, or are most likely to achieve success.

How about using a color-coded system as requests (or emergencies) pour in, assigning a color to each one to signify their priority?

Black is dead on arrival (no action needed). Red signals the need for immediate action. Orange means the issue can be delayed but must be tended to soon.

And green is a low-priority task.

Remember: Don't just list objectives and retain responsibility.

Be a project manager and manage the scope. Planners (and some suppliers) often agree to an increased scope to please a client, which leads clients to assume that their extra demands are insignificant and have little or no impact on the meeting or event.

[Independent Life: How Independent Planners Can Survive Commission Cuts]

Planners need to step up and speak up or risk having scope creep be a bone of contention between you and the client. Making simple changes to protocols for running and recording the outcomes of meetings not only lets planners beat the creep, it can make everyone involved in the project feel more effective, satisfied and productive.

How do you contain scope creep and prevent your time, money and resources from being sucked dry by clients constantly asking you to complete a new set of tasks?

Please share your strategies for combating scope creep in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

*LoriAnn K. Harnish, CMP, CMM, CED contributed to this article alongside Lynne Wellish.

Posted by Lynne Wellish

Lynne Wellish

Lynne Wellish, CMP, CHSE, CHO is an award-winning hospitality industry trainer and speaker.

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