Let me tell you the hard truth: like it or not, there will be moments when you'll have to deal with unprofessional service suppliers. Catering, cleaning, security, audiovisual assistance, lighting, entertainment, you name it. There is always someone who can ruin your event.
And it doesn't matter if you are a first-rate planner - by engaging the services of irresponsible event suppliers, you run the risk of shattering your professional image and even losing some clients. Why?
Attendees don't care who your service suppliers are. They just want to have a meaningful experience and enjoy the event. Yet, incidents such as technical problems, dirty venue spaces, bad catering, or poor lighting can affect your audience. This will lead to negative feedback and comments that will diminish your authority as an event professional.
Unhappy attendees mean unhappy clients. The success of your event depends on how well you meet your client's expectations. One of the ways you can accomplish this is by working with only trusted service suppliers and providing the best experiences for your attendees. If you fail to do so, the poor results will chase your clients away.
So how can you be 100% sure that people you deal with are real professionals who won’t let you down? Here are some red flags to look out for when hiring new service suppliers.
1. Irrelevant questions (or no questions)
There are two types of service suppliers: those who ask important questions and those who have no idea what to ask during the first meeting. Good service suppliers lead the conversation and focus on your event's requirements. They know exactly what to ask. Bad service suppliers, instead, ignore important details or neglect to ask crucial questions. So be careful if the catering manager, for example, fails to concretize the expected number of the attendees or the time duration of the coffee breaks.
2. A 'mission impossible' attitude
Be aware of how service suppliers react to difficult tasks or specific event requirements. The unprofessional ones will insist that some things are impossible to do. You'll receive a bold 'no!' and a winded explanation about why they can't help you. And they have the right to do so, because they know their limitations better than you do. However, good service suppliers are willing to take the time and think about how they can solve your problem, perhaps by offering a different alternative. You won’t be left with that 'figure it out by yourself' feeling.
3. Zero note taking
According to Ben Casnocha, the author of The Start-up of You, people have different ways of capturing information, yet trusting the passive learning is not a good idea. The author notes, "If you don't write down what you're hearing and learning, what are the odds you remember it?" How about the event service suppliers who fail to take notes during the meetings? Usually, competent service suppliers will register the information you provide.
4. The Orange Juice Test failure
According to Gerald Weinberg, the author of The Secrets of Consulting, there are special tricks to help you understand if the people you are dealing with are professionals or not. One of these tricks is called the Orange Juice Test. As the author notes, let's suppose that you are organizing an annual convention for hundreds of people. You decide to include freshly squeezed orange juice on the event breakfast menu. You inform the banquet manager of the hotel that the juice must be ready no more than two hours before the breakfast.
As Weinberg highlights, "It is not possible to do so. Squeezing that much orange in a short amount of time would be prohibitively expensive. If the manager says yes, he is either lying or incompetent and you'd better find someone else who will tell you it's not possible."
You could adapt this test and try it with your event service suppliers. Based on their reactions and responses, you’ll be able to determine if they are trustworthy or just trying to earn your business by telling you what you want to hear.
5. Unsustainable work dynamic
If you have already engaged the services of a supplier, be aware of her or his working style. Unprofessional service suppliers are difficult to reach. They can let days to pass by without answering important emails and you have to continuously follow up if you want to get an answer. They take no initiative when it comes to offer alternative solutions and will add little value to your event. Conversely, good event service suppliers make themselves available and easy to reach. They react quickly and provide suitable solutions to your problems.
Surround yourself with first-rate service suppliers and boost up the quality of your events. Your success as an event manager depends on the people with whom you choose to work. Decide carefully and start growing a strong network of professionals who will deliver the best services.