As an event organiser, you will likely be familiar with the stress and chaos that can come with trying to extract information from a large volume of people, when you need it. Some might say, it’s a bit like herding cats! You send out your friendly request for, let’s say dietary requirements, with your specified deadline and you send your polite follow-up reminders, only to be inundated with responses after the deadline… these last minute.com people have a lot to answer for, that’s for sure! And then you have those who just don’t even respond…well, there really just aren’t any words. When has a deadline ever been a flexible thing that isn’t really a deadline?!
Yes, people are busy and yes they have other priorities, but you’re not asking for the world here, just a few minutes of their time, that will, let’s be honest, likely benefit them more than you in the end.
So, is there an answer? A secret way to get these people to do what you need them to do by the required deadline… in short, no, sadly you can only control your behaviour and not others. However, there are some tips and strategies you can implement that can help you to empower others to do something for you. This doesn’t mean that ALL will comply, but you may find that more do and that you feel less stressed throughout the process. Wouldn’t it be nice to not be bothered by other’s behaviours anymore? It is possible.
Create clear expectations
The first step in getting your event guests to do what you have asked, is to give them more information. More information? Yes, that’s right. Let’s face it, do most of these people have any idea why you have set the deadline you have? Do they understand that you are not sat there twiddling your thumbs, waiting to respond to their every need? No, they don’t. They likely have no idea, so it’s down to you to give them the WHY behind your request. This doesn’t need to be your life story, just a clear statement as to the importance of the deadline and why you need it by the date you have requested. For example; ‘We require your dietary requirements before xxx date. This is because we have a deadline that we need to meet with the venue and this will give us the time we require to get the data to them in the requested format.’
All about them
The next step is to make your communication and requests all about the other person. How will they benefit from doing as you have requested? What will they get from it? As human beings, by nature, we tend to be motivated by what we get from doing a certain action. Would you get out bed to go to a job you hate if you didn’t get paid for it?! Here, all you are doing is utilising this to your advantage. Frame your communication to explain the benefits of completing the requested action. For example; ‘As a guest at this event, it is important to us that you have an enjoyable experience. To ensure we can achieve this, we would be very grateful if you could send us your dietary requirements before xxx date.’
Actions have consequences
We all have a choice, after all doing nothing is a choice, right? I’m sure you will also agree that actions have consequences and in this case, inaction also comes with consequences! The key here is to make this understood in your communications. As with the above, this time you are making it absolutely clear, what they will lose by not meeting your requests/deadlines and what the consequences of that might be. For example; ‘If we do not receive your dietary requirements by the stated deadline, we will not be able to accommodate your food preferences throughout the event.’
This one is quite a common strategy and works effectively when combined with the above strategies. Set your deadline a week or more ahead of when you need the information. Knowing that you will have another week to chase information will help you relax and give you a bit more time to manage any late responses.
Prepare for all eventualities
If the information required is essential, regardless of your event type, it will be vital to have access to the internet at your event. If the venue isn’t able to provide this, there are companies that you can hire that provide event wifi services. This will help you manage those inevitable stragglers via your online systems, who despite your best efforts will probably be sending your requested information to you on the morning of your event! If the information is more of a benefit to them, let it go, if they wanted the vegan option that badly, they would have responded to you! Sounds harsh, but your sanity will thank you for it later. Let it be their problem. Afterall, you already have a lot of other stuff you are already responsible for.