For those of you that don’t me, I’m an event planner.
At times, the role of event planner gets a negative connotation. We often get, “Oh, you’re a party planner” or “Oh my, I would NEVER want your job” or the worst, “Geez, your job is so hard, you get to travel, check out awesome venues, seek out the hottest entertainment, make things pretty and have fun all the time”.
Well, my latest blog series lives to show the world, that yes my job is awesome, but it’s also extremely hard, physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, and the ultimate test of strategic thinking, problem solving, and remaining calm under pressure. These stories are true, honest and pretty comical. Enjoy.
The first of these stories, The Power of a Post It, took place earlier this month.
It was an extremely HOT weekend in Maryland. Intrinsic Events had just come off a Friday night wedding in Washington, D.C. and it was on to Round 2 of the weekend. A beautiful wedding in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, MD. We had spent months getting to know this amazing couple, reviewed every detail, secured an amazing line up of vendors, walked through the timeline over and over again, and at one point, my business partner and I looked at each other and said, “This one’s gonna be a piece of cake.” I spoke too soon.
Rule #1 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever a piece of cake. The moment you let yourself think that, that’s the moment when the unpredictable happens.
Let’s rewind to a few hours earlier that day. The wedding was supposed to begin at 4:30 p.m. and around noon, it was requested that we have the valet company arrive early. Sure, no problem. We pulled out our phones and called the Valet. And called, and called, and left messages, and sent emails, and sent texts, and called, and called again. What the heck? Why was no one answering? Our event was in 4 hours.
Ok, so no big deal, worse comes to worse, they won’t arrive early but they will arrive at their normally scheduled time of 4:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. came and went with no valet in sight. Guests began to arrive, photographs were being taken, my business partner was on bridal party duty and I was supposed to make sure all other logistics were running like clockwork. That included the valet.
I had the moment of “Oh Sh*t, what do I do? The valet situation was a hot button for our clients, it was NOT going to be Ok if this became an issue.
Think Jessica, Think. So I did what any event planner would do and began to assess my surroundings and my resources. Sorry, I admit, there was no PLAN B back up for the valet not showing up. For a summertime wedding, Rain and heat exhaustion were my biggest concerns.
I immediately looked around and realized OK, well I have a parking lot. Then I thought, “Could I park these cars myself?” – Wait, no way. I’m not exactly the world’s greatest driver and the last thing I need is to be sued by a guest.
Rule #2 in Event Planning: Never sacrifice yourself or your business liability to please a customer. A lawsuit is never a successful resolution.
Ok, what next? I realized I didn’t need to be a valet, I just needed to stall until the REAL valet decided to show up. I also needed to make sure the guests were happy, made it to the ceremony on time, and believe that my Plan B was really Plan A.
So, I looked in my purse and found a stack of blue post-its. LIGHTBULB!
I immediately had a plan. I’ve seen hundreds of valet companies in action and I certainly was no beginner when it came to creating processes and efficiencies. I would simply create my own valet system with a pen, some post its, a legal pad, and an amazingly good photographic memory.
I told myself, I got this. But first, I had to make friends with the parking attendant for the lot so she didn’t let the guests driving in suspect any shady business. I walked up to her, introduced myself, asked questions about her and her life, then… told her my #WeddingPlannerProblems. She got it, she felt bad, and she immediately became my ally in this mission.
Rule #3 in Event Planning: Be nice and kind to everyone you meet because you never know when you may need their help.
The first car pulled up, here we go. They were greeted by the attendant, she directed them my way, and I directed them to their parking spot, wrote the #1 on a post it, took notes of year, make and model for car #1, handed them the post it with a smile and a welcome, took their keys and sent them on their way.
And it continued, for 25 cars and 30 minutes, in 100 degree heat, in a black dress and heels, in the middle of a parking lot in Baltimore. And yes, I did get some strange looks and maybe a little skepticism but no one said a word. They believed me and my process. They were happy because I was friendly and efficient and at the end of the day, all they wanted to do was park their car.
The “real” valet eventually showed up and the parking attendants and I had some fierce conversations. But you know what, it’s not their fault, it’s their boss and I knew that. We talked out how to remedy the situation and everyone left the wedding happy, with their cars in one piece.
And to this day, our Clients never knew there was an issue. I’m sure one day over cocktails, we will tell them the truth and have a great laugh about it all, but for now, it’s our little secret. All because of the power of a post – it.
Thank you Romy & Michelle for the invention. I will never go anywhere from now on without post-its in my purse.
Rule # 4 in Event Planning: Nothing is ever as it seems and you can’t stop the earth from rotating.
Life happens and issues arise. It’s a fact that events are stressful and unpredictable obstacles are going to be thrown our way. Yet, the real professional is one who can act quick, develop a workable solution, have confidence in their plan and who can ALWAYS project a fresh, happy-go-lucky aura to all those around them.
The truth is, whether you believe it or not, someone is always watching you. Looking frantic, nervous, tired, and stressed is not an option in our world if you want to be successful. Crying, pointing fingers, and placing blame is also not an option because it does no one any good. It can ruin events, ruin your reputation, and usually never leads to repeat business.
A large part of an event planners job is to assess situations, maximize your resources, build relationships, prevent crisis, and maintain a (smiling) poker face at all times. It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it. And I can honestly say, I’m so happy for myself, my business partner, my team, and my clients, that I am the lucky one who has decided to take on the challenge.
Stay tuned for more of my Confessions.
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