Researchers at MIT in their Short Guide to Consensus Building define consensus as –overwhelming agreement. “Consensus does not mean unanimity”, they go on to say, “but rather is the product of a good-faith effort to meet the interests of all stakeholders.”
While looking through the MIT guide, it dawned on us that that’s exactly what event planners are trying to accomplish when they labor over the details of an event production. They are trying to build consensus between the event owner, the attendees, the venue staff, and the event staff. The event planner’s goal is to get everyone on the same page, as the saying goes.
- Will this venue be convenient and comfortable for a majority of the people we hope to attract?
- What about the food? What is the culinary profile of our target audience? Will they prefer sumptuous meals or health food offerings?
- Should the lighting and décor be ultra-modern or traditional? In what environment will our attendees be most comfortable?
- Should we design interactive presentations or stick with more traditional lectures for this audience?
- Will a majority of our attendees arrive at the airport or must we make special arrangements to accommodate a large number of people arriving by private auto?
- Should we book Taylor Swift or go with Celine Dion?
Every event planner has spent countless hours sorting through a mountain of detail in an attempt to design an event that will appeal to the broadest spectrum of the producer’s intended audience. The willingness and ability to persist in this relentless pursuit of consensus is what sets the great planners apart from all the rest.
In their booklet, A Short Guide to Consensus Building, MIT researchers identify the instincts that they believe are found in all people who are consensus builders. Since we realized that the instinct to build consensus is the foundation under all the skills it takes to become a professional event planner, we thought it might be helpful to offer our readers a simple self-audit that perhaps could reveal whether you are an instinctive consensus builder.
CONDUCT THE FOLLOWING SELF-AUDIT
AM I NATURALLY GOOD AT…
- FACILITATING – Do I enjoy helping groups work together? A great planner is a great facilitator.
- CONVENING – Do I seek to bring people together and love to create an environment that is conducive to building consensus? Do I love to throw a party?
- COMPROMISING – Although I may have professional opinions about how to design an event, am I eager to hear input from all the stakeholders who will be participating?
- CREATING VALUE – Am I aware that negotiation is not a zero-sum game? Do I tend to collect all opinions even when they seem to be mutually exclusive because I believe there are numerous ways to “make the pie larger” in most situations? Do I seek feedback and input from attendees during an event because I realize that participants not only receive value (information/contacts/etc.) at an event, but also can create value when their feedback, both positive and negative, seeds new ideas that will prove useful for the next event I will plan?
Consensus builders are great event planners because they seek to bring people together.
- If you need to be right all the time you won’t be a successful event planner.
- If you would rather work alone, you are probably not cut out to be a meeting planner.
- If you accomplish more with conflict than compromise, you should become a lawyer not an event planner.
Event planning can be a very rewarding profession if you’re cut out for it.