Why are event managers such bad parents?

There are basically two types of parent.

The best type of parent will coach and praise their children, in order to build their confidence, and they inspire or challenge them to try harder and achieve great things. They focus on success and outcomes. These children grow up to be winners, leaders, and happy, capable self-sufficient adults.

The other type, often called helicopter parents, constantly hover over their children, giving detailed orders and instructions for the simplest of tasks. They correct every mistake, and they never give their children a chance to experiment or fail. They focus on the detail of doing something, rather than the result or purpose. These children grow up without the ability to make tough decisions, or handle any kind of pressure, and they are usually dreaming of a happier life, which they will never find. Basically because you don’t find a happier life, you make one.

Now imagine an event manager as the parent, and the conference delegate as the child…

Most event managers behave like a helicopter parents; even when managing a conference attended by senior managers, business leaders, or law partners. These people can, on a normal day, not only get to their office all by themselves, but they can manage to find the closest train station without the help of a ‘personalised travel guidance pack’, or if they drive, they cleverly ask their sat-nav for help. They can pack what they need for the day, without a list of ‘things you will need’, they can find their way to a meeting without the help of human signage and branded arrows. At the end of the day, when all their meetings are over, they are not thrown into a tailspin if they can’t spend the night in the same building as their meetings, they seem to be totally at ease with walking down the road to the closest hotel.

So, why is it, we event managers assume all our delegates are like clueless 5-year-olds, who have to be molly-coddled through their day, signposted round ever turn, and eased into any change of environment? These are grown ups! They can run companies, they can hire and fire people, they can win business, they can do really complicated things like catch planes by themselves, track down a place to buy coffee and even hail a cab.

Event managers unite – stop being helicopter parents !

It’s time for us to make our delegates grow up.

The next time you are with a client, planning an event, try to use some of these terrifying phrases…

I’m sure they will find their own way to the Hilton, even from the airport;

I think the hotel signage is fine as it is;

Let’s let the delegate chose which hotel they want to stay in, and then they can make their own way there and back each day;

If they want a coffee, they can order one;

If it gets too crowded here, they will just move to the other end of the room;

If a queue builds up, they’ll just have to wait in line;

If they have so many dietary requirements that all they can eat is sun-dried, organic kiwi fruit with the peel cut off, they will surely bring their own…

Shall we just let them sit with their friends?

If they forget their badge, they’ll just have to ask for a new one;

If the front row doesn’t fill up first, it surely will when there are no other seats left !

If they don’t visit all the exhibition booths, it’s because THEY DON’T WANT TO !

If there’s a pillar in the room, people will surely just not sit behind it !

If they don’t want to dance, THEY WON’T DANCE !

Let’s inspire our delegates to do great things, just like we would our own children. Don’t condemn them to a life of unfulfilled dreams…

  • Alison Richardson

    Great comments – and many very valid points – why do we always spoon feed Q

  • Christina Petrova

    I think we do it because we want to be perfect, we want to build the relationship and show appreciation. We want to make every experience personalised and that’s when our OCD shows most:) I think it’s normal. However, this makes it difficult to change the management and executive style of an event people are already well familiar with-because they know what to expect and because some delegates don’t welcome change. So, if we want to change the way we execute our events, we have to be ready to receive some kick back. You’re right-it works the way we make it work. We should teach our delegates that they can’t always be held by the hand – but not because they’re not like 5 years old – it’s exactly because they are like 5 years old that we should be able to show them and teach them that they won’t be spoon fed at all times. They’ll do whatever they’re told to even if this means that they have to learn to be more independent.