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Event leadership | 19 October 2016

3 Tips For Event Planners To Communicate Well With Stakeholders

David Epstein

Picture this, you’re walking around office when a senior executive stops you and asks for a status update about the event you’re planning. You pause, and provide the stakeholder with a long winded explanation about the latest event planning issue you’re facing.  Now compare that answer to one where you have a crisp 30 second summary prepared and provide the executive with a list of 3 topic areas that you can elaborate further.

Which answer will give that key stakeholder confidence that you are capable of planning this event, that you are a competent business person, and that you should be entrusted with similar or more important projects in the future?

Effectively communicating with stakeholders, whether you are a marketer planning an event for your company, a professional event planner organizing a conference for a client, is critical to career development and to building strong long-lasting relationships with important people.

To help event planners of all kinds, here are three tips to keep in mind when preparing to speak with a stakeholder.

1. Prepare A 30 Second Summary

If you want to reassure stakeholders that you are on top of the event planning process, it’s important that you work on a 30 second summary should you be asked to quickly provide a status update about the event. When thinking about this summary put yourself in the shoes of the stakeholder, what information does he or she need in order to determine if the project is on track?

What information will the stakeholder need to provide to colleagues?

What problems are you currently experiencing and how do you plan to tackle them?

How can a senior executive help to solve these problems if at all?

These are the kind of questions that you should have already thought about before a stakeholder asks for an update. This tip holds true for impromptu in-person meetings, phone calls, or even emails. By providing a thoughtful and brief response, you will better position yourself as a true professional, which will instill trust and help to strengthen your business relationships.

2. Incorporate The “Double Click” Method

The “Double Click” method is a communication strategy built for the age of the internet. When you’re browsing an online publication, you are presented with a number of different articles to click on. The only information you’re given is a short summary and based on this you select the article that most interests you.

Similarly, you should incorporate the “Double Click” method when updating stakeholders. Break a project down into 3-5 categories and provide a short summary of each, then ask the stakeholder to select the category that most interests them and provide a deeper explanation of that area of the planning process.

As Shu Hattori, author of The McKinsey Edge (a best-selling business book) writes about providing 30 seconds answers using the “Double Click” method, “A 30-second answer gives your listener the opportunity to keep refocusing the attention to the topic of his or her interest.”

Implementing the “Double Click” method will mean that event organizers should get a sense for the intent behind a stakeholder’s request for a status update. Are they most interested in a general update, or are they more interested in hearing about how specific areas of the event planning process are shaping up?

3. Smile If Things Get Tense

If you organize enough events, you are bound to find yourself in a stressful meeting with a stakeholder. In these situations clear and calm communication is key in order to maintain a strong relationship with those in the meeting.

One simple but effective tactic to employ in tense meetings is remembering to smile. Not only does smiling help to soften the tone from others in the meeting (especially when compared to scowling or staring blankly) but smiling also has a positive physiological impact on your mood.

As reported in Psychology Today, “The feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.”

So when faced with a stressful meeting with event stakeholders, remember to smile. It will help you to reduce stress and therefore provide a better composed answer when under the gun. Of course smiling in the right way is important too, smiles that seem disingenuous or condescending can make matters worse. Instead, try to visualize a happy moment in order to create an appropriate feeling smile.

Wrapping Up

Effectively communicating with key stakeholders whether you are a professional event organizer, or a businessperson who has been looped into planning an event is important to build effective relationships with important people.

In order to earn trust remember to prepare a 30 second status update should you be asked about the event and provide stakeholders with a framework of different options so that they can “double click” the topic that is most interesting to them.

Finally, remember that if and when you are faced with a challenging interaction with a stakeholder, smiling can be an effective way to calm your nerves while also softening criticism from senior leaders.

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