Business Tourism Events: Managing Client Expectations

Useful tips and takeaways on managing client expectations and conducting meetings drawn from the Business Tourism Scotland Conference 2013.

In this section we’ve put together useful tips and takeaways on managing client expectations and conducting meetings, drawn from the Business Tourism Scotland Conference 2013.

1. Business Tourism Events – Managing Client Expectations

Large scale events and ceremonies such as Olympic and Commonwealth Games ceremonies are great examples of massive experiences which inspire billions of people around the globe. 

Such moments of spectacle can bring communities together and celebrate unique qualities of time and place – they draw people into a brand, in this case, the city and country in which they’re held. In experiential events, engagement will ultimately drive the success of an event or multi-dimensional experience. The key to this is managing client expectations – providing a creative response, drawing creative ideas from music, text or a brand.

2. What Does Managing Client Expectations Mean?  

This can be defined as addressing what clients expect to happen or be achieved. All aspects of client expectations must be met.  Clients need to understand what’s happening at all stages of the creative process.    

Top Tip: Two-way communication is fundamental for success of managing client expectations.

3. The Components of a Brief: Key Questions to Ask

  • Background summary – who is the client, what is the product, the service, what is the documentation, what are the strengths and the weaknesses?

  • Drivers – what’s your goal for project, what’s the purpose of the work, what are the top objectives?

  • Competitors – who are they, what are they telling the audience that you should be telling, what differentiates your client from its competitors?

  • Message – what are you saying, are these words already developed or do you need to write them down, what do you want the audience to take away?

  • Detail – what is the list of deliverables, the delivery medium, timeline, schedule, the budget?

  • Overview – what is the project, why are you designing it, what opportunities will the project support?

  • Audience – who are you talking to, what do they think of the client project and why do they care?

  • Tone – how should you communicate, what adjectives, what feeling/approach are you going to use?  Visuals – how should these ideas look?

  • People – whom must you report to, who is approving the work, who needs to be informed of progress and by what means?

Top Tip: Ask detailed questions to obtain the answers you need to fully understand the client’s needs, to manage client expectations more effectively.

4. Managing Client Expectations: Which Approach to Take? 

  • Be credible, be professional, keep emotions in check, keep calm, don’t lie however small 
  • Deliver on time and on budget
  • Focus on salesmanship – when securing deadline extensions, the best salesmanship occurs in the form of quiet persuasion–that your suggestions seem to be logical, desirable, inevitable  
  • Put comments in context. Notice the body language of the person you’re talking to – make sure they understand and do your feedback. State opinions as though they were facts, explain how ideas work
  • Take the client through the decision-making process to show how it evolved and to illustrate how the client’s decision is the perfect solution. 
  • “Project post-mortem” – ensure that your talk-through of the project clearly definable and memorable and explain it as a sound-bite, make it clear enough to explain to others.  

Top Tip: Focus on credibility, salesmanship, feedback do’s and don’t's and a project post-mortem.

5. To Meet or Not to Meet – that is the Question

Meetings should always have a clear purpose. They should be held:

  • To evaluate information
  • To make decisions
  • To make a key creative presentation
  • To provide inspiration for the team
  • To bring people together 

Possible common reasons why meetings fail:  they weren’t necessary in first place, the wrong people were there or the venue was wrong.

Top Tip: Think carefully about the purpose and objectives of the meeting, as well as the venue and who should be there before calling and confirming it.

6. Tips for Planning Effective Meetings

  • Consider alternatives such as telephone calls for simple messages 
  • Start and finish on time
  • Close by summarising decisions and next steps
  • Effective meetings need clarity and encourage participation
  • Don’t dominate the conversation
  • Observe and be conscious of verbal and non-verbal clues

Top Tip:  Close meetings with a summary of decisions and clear follow-up actions.

7. Good Practice Tips for Managing Client Expectations

  • Have tough conversations throughout the project – frequent informal reviews are good
  • It’s ok to be wrong – you need to ‘own’ when you give bad advice – it’s best to be honest
  • Offer to help the client communicate inside the client organisation – this helps the organisation’s expectations too – if you make your client look good you may gain a strong ally and bridge the gap within the organisation. This can help you to be seen as a partner rather than a supplier.
  • Ensure expectations evolve with the project – above all else – help evolve client expectations as the project involves, the scope can change.
  • Remember there is no ‘I’ in the team.

Top Tip:  Be honest with yourself and with your client at all times; and maintain a constant focus on helping evolve your client expectations as the project evolves.