Out With The Mullet, In With The Hoodie

by seanlow on November 16, 2017

Everything that we have come to rely on for our every day lives is less than twenty years old.  Sure the microcomputer existed in the 1980’s but the dawn of the Internet age changed everything.

And yet.  The language and practices we use are straight out of the 1990’s.  For this post, I will focus on some sacred cows in the event industry, but my hope is that, for those of you not in the event industry, you will see deep parallels in your area of creative business.

For event professionals, some sacred cows that are needing to go away are: Table set ups?  Packages? Underpromise, over deliver?  Great customer service? Excel?

When we rely on language and practices that are wildly unrelated to today’s environment, at best we sow the seeds of confusion and, at worst, marginalize the entire event industry (and possibly all of creative business).

So let us take a closer look:

Packages — Oldie but a goodie that lives everywhere.  A short cut that undermines everything.  Packages focus on stuff and what will be done for the client.  It connotes sameness and choice when neither could be further from the truth.  Package is about process and what matters to you.  Use those words instead.

Live Table Set Ups and Tastings — they mean nothing as they are, most often, completely unrelated to the environment and instance that will actually happen at the event.  Yes, smelling, touching and tasting is fun, but we can do so so much better.  VR, Livestreaming, Edited Video, better rendering work are just the beginning.

Hourly Fees – When your time mattered, hourly fees did too.  Of course, there are parameters to your work, especially on the day of the event and abuses need to be avoided.  However, charging hourly fees is not the way.  Communication and mutual understanding of what is necessary to get done is.  Why a charge for 2 hours of overtime, when a $5,000 do not be a jerk escrow fee might suffice?

Contracts – Why is it ever the first document you send?  Your clients are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions and you cannot be bothered to work out a term sheet with them first?  You look like a dinosaur when you start with a dense contract that it not related to your actual work.  Take the time to lay out the 4 W’s and How in a plain language document everyone can agree on.  Then send your contract as a reflection of the letter.

Using Old SoftwareTimeline Genius will create day-of event timelines for a negligible cost.  Slack is the fastest growing work management app, umm ever.  Basecamp or whatever project management tool you enjoy is infinitely better than your Excel spreadsheet.  Information flow is vital to any project and you are responsible for it.  Not embracing technology to help you manage the flow today is like relying on fax machines and FedEx to get the job done. Not quaint or retro.  Worse than useless.

Uncurated Portfolios — Not that there ever was a time to show less than your best work, but today the very idea that you would allow an image of yours to exist that you would not stake your reputation on is tantamount to a confession that good enough is good enough.  Yeah, good enough never is and forever more never will be.

List of Services – If you have to spell it out for a client, they are not your client.  Enough said.

Things You Never Do – If you talk about things you never do and/or do not really want  to do, stop.  Be who you are and celebrate the power of niche.  We are long since past the time when did not fully embrace and understand The Long Tail and its implications.

Line Item Pricing – Completely irrelevant to the client relationship.  None of you are in the get-it-for-less business so the price of the linen only matters in context of the price to create the rest of the space.

Cost v. Investment – Cost is something we have to spend to get what we want with only the expectations we set for it.  Investment connotes a return that is in excess of the investment.

On the other side of the coin, here are terms, concepts and industry norms all creative businesses need to embrace: a design statement, the one thing that matters, cost of production vs. investment in your creative business, and, most important the promises you intend to make to earn trust and deliver your best work.  Your core, yes, is always timeless and eternally resonant; its expression, however, demands that you embrace all that today’s world offers.  Tomorrow’s too.

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