A seat at the table
Director of Conference Focus, Max Turpin is sharing his insights on a range of topics with a regular column in BEN. Topics include new generation events and making events effective and valuable.
AS AN external service provider, being invited to a client’s internal meeting to discuss strategic, event-related business means a great deal. It signals that the client values you – not just your service but also your knowledge and input. They view you not just as a service provider but as a consultant and advisor. It indicates trust and respect. It places you above the status of mere order taker. Getting that ‘seat at the table’ during initial discussions means they seek your input and want any suggestions and advice from you to help them make sound, early decisions and set a wise course for success. Again, it means a great deal. But what does it mean if you’re not offered a seat at the table? And how can you claim one if it’s not offered?
It’s not unusual to receive a call or email from a client who starts by saying something like this: “We had a meeting yesterday and would like to organise a (insert event type). Here are the details….”. In essence, everything has been decided without you. At that point you simply become an order taker. It infers you are logistics and service provider only. More often than not, the client does not advise their objectives for the event or how success will be measured…. but you should ask. Often you’ll find it necessary to ask additional questions to help you service their request more efficiently and effectively. And sometimes you might question (internally, not openly) the prudence and intelligence of some aspects of the event. But off you go into service mode nonetheless. By not having a seat at the table during their initial meeting, many important aspects of the event that directly affect its success are taken out of your hands entirely. Your input was not invited. If these decisions negatively impact the event, in turn, this could lead to negative perceptions about your competency, especially as you are the outsourced professional. Unfair but true.
Depending upon your confidence and relationship with the client (especially your main contact), you may want to wait for a suitable time to make a business case for why you should be invited to the table. Ask for a seat if it’s not offered and explain the benefits of you being there. Provide an example if you have one. A seat at the table means you’ll offer loads of value from the outset by helping them to define their objectives, provide some strategy, offer sound advice on destination and venue decisions, logistics management, etc. Ultimately, you want to help and work with them from the start to optimise their event success. And, as you know, their success is also yours.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make your events fresh, innovative and effective, please contact Max Turpin at Conference Focus on 02 9700 7740 or visit the website at conferencefocus.com.au