Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Conflict Resolution at Events

It is almost inevitable that conflicts will arise at some time during an event producer's career.

Although theory abounds on conflict resolution, it does not always work during a real-life event setup or execution due to the necessity for an urgent solution. Our discussion, therefore, must start with a recommendation to event producers to “pick their battles.” The conflicts that arise while the production team is onsite usually involve two or more team members (one could be the producer), a team member and a non-team member (e.g. typically venue staff), or a team member and the client. How these conflicts are resolved will depend to a large extent on the producer’s priorities. Let us see how this may happen by considering some of these priorities.
  • Maintaining company and personal reputation. Perhaps the producer and the producer’s company have a reputation for fair dealing, or for being hard-nosed, or for being ethical above all else. How the producer wants to be seen in the industry may very well affect the conflict resolution outcome and deliberations.
  • Preserving the integrity of the event. Perhaps the producer is so committed to the contract and to the vision of the event, that he/she will do anything to preserve it and to make it happen regardless of the effect that decision may have on relationships or reputation.
  • Preserving relationships. Regardless of the outcome of the event and the reputation of the producer’s company, conflict resolution decisions may be influenced by a producer who values relationships over other options. For example, if there is a conflict between the producer and a Catering Manager in a venue, the producer may opt to agree with the Catering Manager because the preservation of that relationship is worth more than keeping a client or team member happy. Perhaps the Catering Manager sends the producer’s company $100,000 worth of business every year and the client for the present event is one-time only and difficult to deal with. It would not be hard for most producers to opt for a decision that favors preserving the relationship with the venue over satisfying the client. Ethically wrong? Maybe, depending on the circumstances. Smart business? Definitely. A little humble pie eaten with business survival in mind is not necessarily bad – or stupid.
Most producers will, without knowing it, have a priority list similar to the one above, at the back of their minds during any event setup and execution, and will react in a manner that reflects that list in a conflict situation.

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