There's one thing that defines all event professionals: We are born decision-makers. Whether it’s the catering menu we must choose for the event or the audiovisual needs we have to assess, we are constantly responding to our work environment with new decisions.
Sometimes, these decisions are simple and consist of choosing between two or several options. Other times, the decision-making process is highly complex and requires lots of improvisation and uncertainty management. And each time, we survive, fostering our path to becoming real professionals.
As entrepreneur Erik Larson mentions in a Harvard Business Review article, “Decisions are the most powerful tool managers have for getting things done. Setting goals (another tool) is aspirational, but making decisions actually drives action.”
However, with the role of decision-makers comes a series of risks and responsibilities. By making inspired, quick, or bad decisions, we may compromise our event’s success or attendees’ wellbeing. Considering this, there’s a learning curve when it comes to the decision-making process.
To speed it up, check out these tips on how to make better decisions when planning your next event:
Tip 1. Don't rely on gut instincts only
Intuition might be good sometimes, but it’s not a great idea to make an event-planning decision based on what “you feel” it’s right. Before making any decision, you must gather as much information as you can about the subject. Then, you must carefully weigh the pros and cons. Your gut feelings can tell you one thing and lead you to easily make a rush decision without having a complete picture of the matter at hand.
Tip 2. Avoid the wishful thinking
The image of events that we have in our heads will not always correspond with reality, which can lead to making some professional decisions while guided by wishful thinking. This may cause plenty of frustration and issues that you subsequently must resolve.
To become a better decision-maker, back up your decisions with facts and arguments. Always maintain a rational perspective and weigh the evidence you have on the table.
For example, you may want to attract as many attendees as you want by leaving registration open until the day before the event. While it seems like a great idea, it could lead you to not check the attendance count and possibly fill overbook the event.
“Wishful thinking” will make you believe that everything is under control, however, if you check in with the rational part of your brain, you’ll realize how dangerous is to keep the registration open without monitoring the headcount. You may end up with a crazy number of guests that exceeds the venue capacity (and then have to turn people away at the door), or conversely, you may have just a few pre-registered attendees (which normally would require a more intense marking campaign).
Tip 3. Work on improving your emotional intelligence
As research shows, “People with high emotional intelligence make smarter decisions because they aren’t swayed by their current emotional state.” When you have a higher emotional intelligence, you are better able to understand what’s happening, detach yourself from the current experiences, and make clearer decisions.
Does that sound like you? Maybe that’s the opposite of you, and you just shrug it off and think, “Well, emotional intelligence is a natural attribute—you either have it or you don’t.” Not true. According to entrepreneur Justin Bariso, “Like any other skill or ability, practice makes … Better. Of course, it's impossible to have perfect control over your emotions. And learning to improve your emotional intelligence isn't a process that happens overnight. However, consistently practicing these steps will allow you to begin harnessing the power of emotions—and use that power to work for you, instead of against you.”
Tip 4. Find a professional mentor
We all need an advisor who can guide us through the professional minefield. Even the most successful professionals have mentors who help them stay focused on the essentials and learn how to manage crisis moments.
Tip 5. Don't stay in the “paralysis by analysis” state
As the entrepreneur Kevin Van der Straeten indicates, “The organization of an event may take place over a period of weeks, months, or even years, and may therefore undergo several evolutions during this period. For example, budgets may be reduced as a result of falling sales figures. Moreover, you will often be confronted with pressures of time, so that the full implementation of your plans may become difficult.”
The worst thing you can do in these cases is take no action. Obviously, you might feel extremely overwhelmed, which may cause a certain degree of paralysis, yet if you don’t act immediately, you run the risk of not solving your event challenges efficiently and sabotaging your success.
Making better decisions is a skill you can learn, so don’t feel guilty for being overwhelmed by the multitude of challenges planning an event involves. Moreover, allow yourself to make mistakes and learn from them. Make one decision at a time, and don’t forget to monitor each decision’s outcomes.