How to Deal with Difficult Clients in the Events Industry

Dealing with Difficult Clients in Event Planning? 5 Times It’s Okay to Just Say “NO!”

In an ideal world meeting and event planners would focus on one event at a time. Given that venues, speakers and agendas need to be locked down months in advance, and that’s just not realistic. In a single day, you could be negotiating contracts with venues for one event, printing badges for check-in for another, and updating Facebook to notify attendees for a third. Managing so many events is a challenge in its own right, but what do you do when some clients are demanding? Here are five times when modern planners can say “no” and better tackle the challenge of a difficult client.

Learn to Love “No.”

How was your week? “Busy!” It doesn’t matter what industry is in question; we’re all too busy these days, and so are some of the best planners. The difference is that they know how to walk the fine line between being at capacity and being overwhelmed. This is where planners that manage multiple events need to be comfortable with the word “No”.

It’s not the job of the modern meeting planner to please everyone, but rather to manage expectations, execute on great events, and to do it on a consistent basis. Knowing when to say “No” and when to say “Yes, if… “ can be the key to delivering on what you promise at every event. So when should you say “No” to clients during the planning process?

When should event planners say “No!” to difficult clients?

1. The Client Asks for A New Timeline

The word is right there in the job title, P-L-A-N. Planners are experts at creating a timeline and sticking to an optimal plan. The most difficult clients in event planning are those that stray from concrete deadlines. Remind clients that this is what you do best if they try to shift the deadlines.

2. They Deviate from the Diagram

Once you’ve committed to a client and agreed upon a venue, you should have a good sense of the opportunities or limitations of the event. Make sure clients understand what’s possible with room-sets, A/V, and event design and be prepared to turn down bombastic ideas that might pop up in the middle of the planning process.

3. The Client Wants to Take Over Too Much Responsibility

“Be sure to CC me on every email…. I’d like to meet with the caterers next week… Make sure I get the final say on the furniture!” When you agree to work with a client, make sure they trust your decision making implicitly. Be ready to say “No” if they try to take over the process.

4. You’re Treated as a Personal Assistant

Planners are relied upon by clients, venues, and also attendees. They’re organized, artful communicators and will often find ways to bend the rules to please clients. The trouble is when clients take things too far. You’re used to bending over backward to satisfy your clients, but don’t let it happen at the expense of upcoming projects.

5. When You Can Leave Clients Happy Anyway

As mentioned, it’s not your job to fulfill EVERY request. Ask yourself if what you’re doing for clients actually moves the needle for an event. Be prepared to say “no” when you’ve determined that an idea has little overall impact to the event experience.  

The last thing any event planner wants is to leave clients feeling like they’re not getting what they asked for. Planners can prepare themselves to say “no” to difficult clients by being transparent for the entire relationship.

Plan Events Seamlessly

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Collaboration is key. No event can be planned by a single person. Events are like machines with dozens of moving parts, each responsible for their own unique role. The challenge is keeping everyone involved on the same page, with up to the minute information. Here’s a look at three tools that can help you do just that, and communicate visually to give difficult clients the assurance they need.


It’s time to kill email! Slack is one of the fastest growing chat apps in the business world, and it’s 100% free. Invite everyone relevant to the event to a chat room in Slack and keep your team posted with regular updates on any device.


With so many parties involved the key to managing each individual’s efforts is simplicity. Asana makes it easy to take huge projects, break them down into their individual tasks and assign and track everyone’s progress.

Social Tables

The room diagram is arguably the one aspect of each event that requires the most back and forth communication. Social Tables makes it possible for planners, their clients, and venues to work off of a single event diagram collaboratively. All changes are tracked, and can be accessed on any device with a web browser. Once a room-set is agreed upon, the property can share final layouts online, or print them out and hand it directly to the team in charge of setting up the room.

Remember that property managers, catering providers, and even speakers are all invested in the event going off without a hitch. Successful planners can manage multiple events each year by holding stakeholders accountable. In what ways do you deal with particularly difficult clients in event planning. Connect with us on Twitter @socialtables and let us know!

Benchmarking the Modern Meeting Planner