When I worked in venues, one of the best things I learned early on when it came to the sales and planning process was this –always anticipate the objections and be prepared to solve them.
And while I saw my fair share of corporate and social events, I found that this particularly came in handy with the wedding clients. They, after all, tend to make decisions based on emotion and, like clockwork, an inevitable deluge of questions and concerns rise to the surface as I put the finishing touches on their contract.
What if it rained during an out door wedding? What if someone crashes the event? What if your in-house florist can’t get the peonies I want? I often found myself drowning in a sea of what if’s.
Typically, I’d be able to recover the conversation quickly. If it rains, we’ll have a gorgeous Sperry tent. If someone crashes, we’ll take their drinks off your bar bill. If you can’t get peonies you wanted, I’m sure there are equally lovely florals to take their place.
But then one day, I was questioned about the lighting in the venue- more specifically, the sunlight pouring into Empire Ballroom I was currently in the midst of selling them. The issue being this- the couple wanted a 7pm start but for reasons outside our control, we’d have to start earlier in the day.
And instead of the usual “oh it will be fine- it’s gorgeous during the day,” I decided to take a different approach. Suddenly, in the middle of our noon appointment, I dimmed the chandeliers. I practically danced across the room to each window, lowering the shades. I turned on classical house music. With tables already set for another event, I snagged a lighter and lit the candles at one of the tables. And then, with the dramatic flair of a high school musical, I turned to my audience and said “Now, can you picture your evening-celebration-at-2pm in here?” Game, set, match.
Storytelling has always been my signature move- it catches people’s attention and has a proven track record of helping people better retain the information you are communicating to them. It adds a dose of humanity to nearly every situation and connects you with your customer.
And while the above anecdote applies best to the tulle and buttercream-icing crowd, storytelling can be applied to nearly any type of event imaginable. Walk the overworked executive assistant through their corporate holiday party, making sure you run through the time you’ve carved out for their team to enjoy a little pre-bash downtime in a suite with complimentary wine because you have everything handled. When you’re planning a shareholders’ meeting and the client is brainstorming ideas to celebrate a President’s 10th anniversary, regale them with the tale of when you conspired with an organization to bring out a cake to the retiring CEO, along with his children who had flown in for the event.
So how can you implement storytelling into your event planning?
Propose With A Story
The early stage of event planning is ideal for storytelling- whether you’re trying to win the business, or sell the client on your event design vision. Instead of simply walking a client through the benefits, help them envision the day itself by walking them through it. Tell them what it would be like for guests when they arrive, how the tables will be set. For social events, focus on the emotional aspects and with corporate, be sure to appeal to their logical side.
Say It With Details
Once the client is onboard, it’s time to look for ways to tell their story through the event elements- from the invitations and décor to the menu and entertainment. Take time in the beginning to learn the brand from the inside out, and ask the necessary questions to gauge how they want to play out. Ask yourselves- what story would you want to tell guests from beginning to end and how can you make that happen with the event day elements you’re overseeing?
From there, it’s up to your event planning expertise to craft a gathering that is unique to the client’s story, allowing the thoughtful details to come together to truly capture the reason behind the event.
Garner Attendance Through a Story
Storytelling can also come in handy if you’re also overseeing the promotion and ticket sales for the event. If, for example, you are planning a charity event on behalf of a nonprofit, people will be more likely to purchase a ticket if the call to action is accompanied by a personal anecdote from someone who has benefited from the donations rather than a simple link to register. While the end goal may be the same, the method by which you tell the story of the event will have a major effect on how many people attend.
Here’s the real secret of the trade: there is a story behind everything if you dig deep enough. Much of an event depends on how it is ‘spun,’ so be sure that the story angle you choose to focus on is one that will be meaningful and relatable for the client, as well as their guests.
Join us on Twitter @socialtables or share a comment below to let us know about how you weave storytelling into events.
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Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, a niche PR agency that services the wedding industry.