Managing Impossible Client Expectations

Today’s event client wants a lot – Pinterest-perfect designs, flawless execution, and all of it under budget. And of course, we’re magic-makers – we want to please! How do we reconcile our need to satisfy the most impossible demands with reality and still have happy, satisfied clients? The trick is to expertly manage expectations.

Where It Starts

Our events world projects perfection – we have mastered the art of making everything look easy, if just for a few hours, so our clients and their guests experience magic. Even better, we capture our best performances and deliver them to the world via social media – and of course, we leave out the things that didn’t go quite right, and the ugly behind-the-scenes truths. Impossible expectations are, in part, our creation – we only show our clients and prospective clients flawless, dream events, so of course that’s what they want too!

Part of managing impossible expectations is understanding where they come from. When we do our jobs right, it looks to the outside word like we actually can do anything. However, we know better, and we understand that behind every perfect tablescape, every surprise performance, and every gourmet menu there is planning, compromise and even a little bit of luck.

Event Educators

One of the most powerful ways that we can help manage expectations is through education. When presented with an unreasonable demand, instead of simply saying “no,” explain the reality. If your client wants something from a Pinterest inspiration shoot that was never meant to actually exist at an event, for example, demonstrate to your client what went into the design and execution of the shoot and how it can’t be scaled up reasonably. As you do this, be prepared to offer alternatives.

Let Your Expertise Shine

Coming up with creative solutions and alternatives is why you get paid the big bucks! If your client can’t have what’s in the picture, what can you deliver within budget? Can you scale back the concept? Use materials that are similar, or that give the same look and feel? Can you identify what it is about the image that your client loves so much and interpret it with what is available to you?

If the disappointment is still too great to overcome, focus on how your client wants a personalized event, not a cookie-cutter copy of what was online. Pull the elements that resonate most with them from their inspiration boards and create something unique – and realistic – just for them. Focus less on what they can’t have, and more on what you can do to make their event special.

Even the most demanding of event clients will ultimately appreciate honesty and effort. If you’re facing impossible expectations, take a step back, figure out where the motivation is coming from, present the reality of the situation and offer alternatives. Through expert management of expectations, you can turn a sticky situation into total client satisfaction.

Emily Sullivan

Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere.