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Never let them see you sweat…

A few weeks ago we ran a weekend long retreat and board meeting for a board of a major client. The weekend was at a locale of their choice, a lovely 5 star resort that shall rename nameless but is certainly is both well known and should be well run given its reputation and the prices involved. I was therefore expecting a pretty seamless event  – it was simple-3 days- 2 dinners, a board meeting, a round of golf for the members, some down time activities and depart.


Let me start by saying the board has no idea any of the below happened. To them the weekend went exceptionally well- they loved their accomadations, the dinners were lovely, the golf was fun, the spouses happy and the board meeting went well. They came back rested, relaxed and having made lots of important and positive decisions about the company.

From a planning perspective the weekend was an unmitigated disaster. I went into the weekend with some trepidation- the sales department seemed scattered and there were far too many players in the pre-work period- every little venue or event had a different person, which can spell disaster. There did not seem to be one person in charge of our weekend – which makes me nervous. You want there to be a point person, someone who will go the extra mile for you at the venue(s). We had a few hiccups with scheduling the down time activities- people were slow to respond and in one case the venue was exceptionally unhelpful in scheduling an activity at their own resort. I had to get tough on that one and it did happen, but only after I went to 3 separate people and explained that with an event generating our sort of revenue at relatively little work on their part it would be a good idea to help me out…. Anyway, by the time we actually arrived I knew I had to be at my best. The BEO’s were non-existant or wrong, many of the sub-venues were confused or not in the know at all, because their conference people had simply dropped the ball, over and over again.

Right here, right now is why you hire a professional planner rather than hoping your assistant can handle it or passing it off to the office manager…. Spending hours onsite behind the scenes literally chasing down conference managers, banquet people, extra waiters, changing venues to more appropriate choices due to construction and issues they “neglected to tell you about”  is all something I do, do well, and do quickly. It is all in the planning and then it is in the double checking – on paper everything about the event looked perfect at noon the friday of the weekend. But, because I double checked, because I walked the venues, we found the issues and resolved them before the board knew anything about it. Was it stressful? YES. Should it have happened at a resort of this caliber. NO WAY. But it did. So my advice is to always double check and to be firm, direct, polite and exceptionally clear about what you need to be done to make it all work for your client. I am not known for my “warm fuzzies” which is okay (though my kids will tell you I am a hell of a snuggler) but I am known to get it done – on time, on budget and with a minimum of fuss and drama.

The good news is that the event was seamless from the outside- the client never knew about any of the behind the scenes chaos and they are happy with the work. Thank goodness! Will I recommend the venue to other clients? Nope, not a chance. Which is too bad because the facilities were lovely, the food was great and the individual staff who helped me right the ship gone wrong were all very helpful and good to work with. I can say that since the event the venue has reached out to me to apologize which is very nice and I am glad they realize they were so off that weekend but it does not mean I would recommend another of my clients’ use them- just too fraught with risk of incompetence.

The bottom line is “never let them see you sweat” (the client) and make sure you have all of your ducks in a row, over and over again.

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