It appears there’s one bandwagon a good number of Nigerian entrepreneurs are jumping into – I call it the EPX (Event Planner Xtravaganza). Everywhere I turn there’s an event planner handling a wedding, book launch, seminar or some other shindig. Clearly the demand outweighs supply because there’s an event at least every weekend somewhere in Nigeria – Good news for event planners; bad news for the host’s bank account. But if you’re going to go into this kind of business you might as well start the product (or should I say service) differentiation early. Five common pitfalls I’ve come across are:
i. Uncoordinated ushers – Times without number I have attended social events (weddings to be specific) and observed this common pitfall. It’s bad enough that some event planners do not make use of trained ushers and simply put uniforms on employed staff who serve food, drinks and do nothing more. I’ve sat at a wedding reception and watched in sheer agony as people at other tables were being served all manner of refreshments while I wallowed in hunger pains. The worst part is that I was sitting within arms length of the food source but kept being told that someone will attend to me (when I was dead obviously). Why not make it a buffet or employ/train ushers and get them to do the following:
- Have an usher usher guests to their designated seats. E.g. for weddings, ushers can guide guests of the bride and groom to the respective seating areas in the reception venue.
- Have ushers in charge of say 3-5 tables and attach waiters to them. This way there’s some coordination and each usher will only worry about tables assigned to them by you the event planner, and worry less about the crazy Nigerian yet to get served.
ii. Poor timing – Event planners need to remain professional at all times and not keep to African Time (a Nigerian phenomenon widely associated with people who arrive extremely late to a planned event). If the event planner cannot keep to time then this translates to unhappy customers and bad word of mouth for your business. A professional event planner would not start to arrange and decorate chairs and tables on the day of a wedding while the bride and groom are exchanging vows. Instead, why not do the decorating a day before at the very latest? When they manage their time well then it sends of the right message – ‘I am in charge and everything is under control’.
iii. No plan B – I’ve witnessed a reception event go terribly awkward when the caterer, who happened to be bringing both the food and the wedding cake, was nowhere to be seen! There were only so many jokes that the MC could crack to kill time before he realized that the subsequent sounds he was hearing wasn’t laughter but the rumble of hungry bellies (including his own most probably). Event planners should prepare for every possible eventuality that could happen. Why? Because life will throw curve balls at you without prior warning. How well an event planner can cope with unforeseen situations would also set them apart from the competition. Be prepared with a plan B.
iv. Packaging – Remember when I mentioned uniforms earlier in the uncoordinated ushers section? Event planners need to understand that they’re not just serving a paying host; they’re building a brand and hopefully, a brand that will outlive them. Interestingly enough, I was at a seminar some hours ago where renowned career coach and social reformer Muyiwa Afolabi observed that some successful businesses run by the ‘white man’ (Americans and Europeans) e.g. Coca-cola invented in 1892, are still alive while Nigerian owned businesses of moguls like the late M.K.O Abiola folded up after he passed on. Packaging plays a big part in your brand. Event planners need to look beyond that current event and think about every detail that makes their business the success that it is – then build on it tirelessly.
v. Flat Chapman – The absence of Chapman at a wedding in Lagos these days is a sin. The flatness of Chapman however is a cardinal sin. Any potential event planner reading this particular point may think I’m not a serious blogger to mention this as a pitfall to avoid. Well, my response to them is this – do you know how many people are searching online for the Chapman recipe? Check out the no. of views on my Chapman article alone:
That said, the event planning business is very lucrative in Nigeria and doesn’t seem to be going out of season anytime season (so long as there are weddings, book launches, seminars and other social events to plan). There is however still room for improvement and those who perfect their game now could dominate the industry and take out the competition over time – but only if they think and dream big 🙂
Image credits: cateringcharlotte.com