THE WAY THAT event professionals do their jobs is changing faster than ever. To help identify the most powerful trends, we interview Michele Wierzgac, a veteran event planner who now invests time in analyzing how future forces will affect the event and meetings profession. Here, she offers a look at what changes are in store and how event professionals can meet the challenges of an evolving industry.
SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: I'm an event professional who is facing the change called “scope creep” — I'm expected to produce bigger events with bigger results, but my budget dollars are the same as last year. How can I address this problem?
MICHELE WIERZGAC: I don't see “scope creep” as your problem: It is your client's problem — whether you have an internal or external client. The client failed to factor in the additional responsibilities. So what do event professionals do? Well, we are natural problem-solvers! We begin to look at technology, time management, and using our personal time to solve “their” problem. Unfortunately, being a natural problem-solver can be a negative when we do not negotiate what is in our best interests. We always think of ourselves last, which can add unnecessary strain on our personal and professional lives. The last time I checked, “negotiation” is solving an issue in a way that is best for both sides. We as an industry do not speak up and defend our ground. For example, would a contractor even dare go to a carpenters' union and increase the scope of work without negotiations or compensation? Of course not!
There are three skills all event professionals throughout the industry must improve upon: communication, confidence and negotiation. We need to develop our communication skills to explain to our client the impact of scope creep. Next, we need to develop confidence in facilitating a consensus, which could mean one of several solutions: hiring an additional person, delegation of responsibility to someone else within the organization, or, ideally, eliminating the assumption that you will “naturally” take on scope creep. Finally, we must develop negotiating skills! Did you know that according to many major studies, women avoid negotiations because they view the process as “win and lose” rather than “consensus building”? Many women will avoid competition at all costs. I bring this up since the majority of the industry's membership is women. Negotiation is the skill that enables you to bring about a positive change that you can control!
Q: What other “big picture” changes should planners keep in mind?
A: There are two. One, a major core element of a “true” profession is having met the requirements to enter into the profession. For example, architects, teachers and accountants must have a degree plus a certification to enter their profession. Watch for the development of standard procedures to enter the event profession, and be sure to support the changes. Why? To garner respect and regard for our profession.
Another major change will be nanotechnology — the act of manipulating matter at the atomic scale. With nanotechnology, a supercomputer the size of a sugar cube could possess the power of a billion laptops. This concept is so new that we do not know what change will impact everyone first. But we know for sure that everyone will be touched by nanotechnology, both personally and professionally.
Q: Everyone says “embrace change,” but with so much in flux, how do we know which changes to embrace and which to run away from screaming?
A: Change is a major part of life. In many instances we do not have control over change. But with the changes we do have control over, I recommend sticking with your instincts. Determine on a regular basis, not in crisis mode, what works for you, your family, the organization and this fabulous industry. The issues we do not have control over, I recommend saying a prayer and asking for guidance. The answers always come — that is, if you are truly listening with your heart!
Michele C. Wierzgac, CMM, is a speaker and facilitator who consults with clients on marketing, communication and event strategies. President of Michele & Co., based in Oak Lawn, Ill., she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; her Web site is www.micheleandco.com.