Mastering the Fine Art of Communication with Event Stakeholders

Event Stakeholders in a meeting

As an event planner, you always aim to please, especially when it comes to your stakeholders.  Be they clients, sponsors, vendors or delegates, the key to their contentment lies in your ability to effectively communicate with your stakeholders before, during and after the planning process.  Regardless of the type or size of the event you’re planning, this blog will uncover the strategies you need to keep your stakeholders happy and on your side, all while creating memorable, meaningful and valuable events.

  1. Identify Your Stakeholders

First and foremost, clearly identify your stakeholders and, even better, work to understand both their roles and their expectations of your activities as a planner.  These first steps will go a long way to ensuring a smooth flow of communication between yourself and the stakeholders you serve.

  1. Establish Clear Objectives

Next, you’ll need to set clear objectives for your event.  Take the time to share these with your stakeholders so that you can ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding your event’s purpose, goals, and expected outcomes.

  1. Choose the Right Communication Channels

It almost goes without saying, but different stakeholders may likewise prefer different communication channels.  Take the time to consider these personal preferences and tailor your approach accordingly.  While the conventional channels of email, in-person meetings or phone calls may work for some, other stakeholders might prefer to use project management software and/or collaboration tools to streamline communication and provide a centralised platform for updates and discussions.

  1. Open and Honest Communication

Choosing the best channel for communicating with your stakeholders is one thing, but there should never be any doubt about the tone and manner in which you interact with them. Be open and honest with your stakeholders at all times, even if — and especially when — there are challenges or delays to your plans. This kind of transparency builds trust and shows your commitment to delivering a successful event.

  1. Develop a Communication Plan

It also helps to create a comprehensive communication plan that outlines when, how, and to what level of detail you’ll communicate to stakeholders throughout your planning process. This should also incorporate timings for regular progress updates, important milestones and any plans for contingency communications to address any changes to the scope or budget of your event.

  1. Cultivate the Art of Active Listening

A little bit of active listening — that is, listening with an intent to fully understand and engage with the perspective of your stakeholders — can go a long way to improve communication.  For you as an event planner, this means taking the time to fully engage with the feedback, concerns or suggestions of your stakeholders — and sometimes even asking questions of your own to get total clarity and understanding of their views.  By actively listening, you not only demonstrate respect for your stakeholders and the input they have to offer, but stand to gain positive insight that can allow you to fine tune your decisions as a planner.

  1. Adapt to Their Needs

This same set of active listening skills can also be used to understand the unique and varied needs and expectations of each stakeholder group. For example, your sponsors may be interested in ROI metrics while your attendees might care more about the overall event experience.  Once you understand the needs of each group, you can tailor your communication accordingly.

  1. Conduct Regular Meetings

Regular stakeholder meetings — whether they are in-person or virtual — are absolutely crucial in keeping all parties aligned and informed.  Regardless of the format they take, consistency in scheduling these helps to establish a sense of routine and reliability.

  1. Record and Document Everything

When interacting with stakeholders, it’s important to keep detailed and up-to-date records of all communications, decisions, and agreements.  If needed, this documentation can serve as a reference point to help resolve any disputes or misunderstandings that may arise.

  1. Celebrate Successes, Learn from Mistakes

When your event goes well, be sure to share that success with your stakeholders and take the time to acknowledge their contributions while thanking them for their involvement in your undertaking.  While success is certainly easy to celebrate, it’s just as important to acknowledge when things haven’t gone so well.  In these instances, you should be ready to conduct a post-event evaluation alongside your stakeholders, using those active listening skills to identify points of improvement for any future events.

As a planner, you know that communication is a fine and subtle art, especially when multiple diverse parties are involved.  Regardless of who they are or what they want, the key to stakeholder happiness lies in your ability to communicate honestly and effectively with them throughout the entirety of the planning process.  This is a tactic that not only fosters an atmosphere of trust and reliability, but a sound strategy that can help you move toward event success time and time again.

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