Etiquette & ethics in event management: Rules for good manners & governance in the event industry
Updated: Feb 8
The event industry in India is still largely unorganised and that has resulted in cut throat competition between professionals & agencies willing to go the extra mile to make a name for themselves.
While this kind of competition is indeed very healthy, it is equally important to know where to draw the line and ensure you conduct your business in a respectable & dignified manner.
Good Etiquette & Ethics will help you establish a set of guidelines that will mandate good behaviour and ensure good governance by guiding you to take decisions that are respectful of society and reflect the character of a brand that is honourable & admired.
Prompt Communication: Value the time of your clients, vendors & colleagues. Always be prompt with your communication & follow-ups. In a day and age where technology has made it possible to communicate with people no matter where you are, there is absolutely no excuse to keep you stakeholders waiting for a reply. Even if you cannot furnish the details or provide the solution your client is asking for, leave a reply with an approximate timeline to get back to them and stick to it. Sometime even an acknowledgment that you have received their message shows that you respect them and keeps their mind at ease knowing you are aware and working for them. Considering majority of your communication will be via email, take some time to check out these 15 Email Etiquette rules.
Meet Deadlines: It is good practice to set deadlines for tasks and communicate the same to your clients. Stick to the declines you have set for yourself and meet them under any circumstance. Apart from ensuring your work is completed on time, this is a very easy process that will help establish trust with your clients & partners - something that will go a long way in building a sustainable and lasting relationship with them.
Maintain Confidentiality: When you are working closely with brands in the experiential marketing space, it is but natural that you will have access to information that is sometimes meant for your eyes only. Many a times, especially in India, clients skip the process of signing lengthy NDA's to protect their interests and brand. However, as an event professional, it is your responsibility to ensure you do not pass on sensitive client information outside of your organization. Build this sense of trust and respect amongst your team as well since you will be sharing sensitive information with multiple people for various tasks at hand.You can learn more about the risk of breaching client confidentiality here.
Build Partnerships: Don't just build a vendor network, build partnerships. Treat your vendors, service providers & venue managers as partners rather than subordinates. Not only is it the right thing to do - but it is something that will work to your advantage during difficult times. More often than not we find ourselves in situations that require nothing short of magic to save the day - if your team & your vendors respect you, they will be more than willing to take the extra effort on your behalf and deliver seemingly impossible tasks.
Respect Profits: Be sympathetic & understanding towards your vendors and their need to make profits. Don't undercut your competition for the sake of luring clients, especially when the burden is going to rest on the shoulders of your vendors. It can be difficult to get new business as your start your journey in the event industry. Try to set yourself apart by your services instead. Offer a free service or some sort of value addition from your end instead of discounts and slashed rates that will negatively impact the industry.
Keep Calm: Organising an event is an extremely high pressure task. Stress levels are always rising as you get closer to the event day. Make sure you are calm and composed in such situations and don't let it be an excuse for rude behaviour or nasty communication. When things go wrong - and trust me, they will - don't criticise and complain. Instead, work diligently with your team and vendors to find solutions that will be beneficial to all parties. Make every effort to engage in respectful communication, irrespective of the circumstance. Leave confrontation as a last resort. Follow these 8 tips to stay calm during a crisis.
Appreciate Others: Event planning is a thankless profession. Whether you are an agency, a freelance professional and even your vendors - everyone is always going to be the driving force of any event BEHIND THE SCENES. So don't forget to shower praise and show appreciation to your team when it is deserved. Give the team due credit when its due - a kind word goes a long way in building successful partnerships with your team and service providers.
While etiquette ensures you conduct yourself in a respectable manner, ethics are a set of principles that guide you to make moral choices for yourself and your business.
Good ethics ensure your brand is perceived with respect, it facilitates talent retention and minimises risks for your organisation.
Full Disclosure: Being honest about your commitments is of utmost importance and a crucial factor that will help customers trust you and your brand. Never make promises you cannot keep. It is alright to be realistic and say NO when required. If it's season time and you've got your hands full with work and a new project comes along - explain to your client politely that you are overloaded and will not be able to take up the project. Offer to help & guide where possible - it's better to loose out on 1 event rather than risk loosing a client & all their future business.
Bribes & Kickbacks: Avoid bribes at all costs. Be it vendors, local authorities or even your guests. Bribing vendors & local authorities sets a wrong precedent and effects ease of doing business not only for yourself in the future, but for the entire industry. Similarly, don't entice guests with exuberant gifts & takeaways. It can be perceived as a bribe and negatively impact sentiment amongst the guest and spectators. If your client does have a large budget for event favours - guide them to use it for enhancing the guest experience instead. Kickbacks are similar to bribes, it's when you take a bribe from your service provider in exchange for giving them business. This unethical practice harms your clients, your organisation and your reputation.
Due Diligence: Always perform all of the necessary due diligence while preparing for an event. Where there are concerns related to venue or weather, especially during outdoor shows, be sure to understand the risks and present them truthfully to the client. Negligence and the desire for monetary gain should not influence your decisions as it will expose you and your client to unnecessary risk and distress. Safety of your guests and crew should be of paramount importance and the only way to ensure the same is to perform your due diligence with integrity.
Plagiarism: Avoid copying others concept's or designs. With access to unlimited content on the internet - it is easy to get carried away in the interest of saving time and effort by copying ready content. This should be avoided at all costs. Instead, look for inspiration and tweak what you like with your own unique sensibility. Not only will this save you from punitive legal action, but also lend a flavour of your brand to your ideas and designs. If you are using resources from the internet as is, make sure you credit the creator and take necessary permission before using their work.
Discrimination: Whether you're selecting vendors, manpower or building your own team, it is important to avoid discrimination based on sex, cast, colour or anything else for that matter. Work with a diverse pool of vendors and talent.
Recce: Short for reconnaissance, a recce is a visit to a particular hovel, venue or location to observe and understand the facilities, limitations & spaces available for your event. Many a times one has to travel out of their home towns to luxurious properties & scenic locations to evaluate event venues. Do not use this as an opportunity to take a vacation or treat your friends or family to a free trip out of town. If you must travel with a companion, ask your superiors and take permission, you'd be surprised how many will simply agree as long as you are diligent enough to complete your work on priority. If for some reason a recce is cancelled, don't keep this information from your team or the venue authorities and go anyway.
Make sure you adhere to these guidelines of proper etiquette & ethics to ensure you run a respectable & risk free operation. Sometime lines are blurred, in which case I would urge you to follow your moral compass and take the decision that is right for your clients & your team and not one that is motivated by personal gain.
Lastly, make sure you address unethical behaviour in your team as well. Guide your colleagues to practice proper etiquette and point out the ones who indulge in unethical practices. You are responsible for representing yourself and your organisation.