If you've ever attended any type of networking event in our industry you've likely been inundated with tales of vendors and guests misbehaving. Sometimes I feel like it's a competition to see who has the most outrageous story or has survived the greatest offense. If you've been in business more than a minute, you've probably experienced at least one instance when someone made your job very difficult. You may have even been genuinely surprised by their actions. After all, aren't vendors supposed to be consummate professionals, working as a team? Aren't guests supposed to be rational, thoughtful adults who want to have a safe, fun time? If you're snickering, you know what I mean and could probably write this post for me. No matter your experience level, we all could use a little reminder of how to be diplomatic while getting the work done. Especially during the busy season.
Try Being Nice
It might be that the offending party simply isn’t aware that their actions are disruptive. Maybe a vendor is new to the industry and doesn't understand the flow of events. Perhaps the bride’s cousin is genuinely interested in videography and doesn’t realize you’re unable to answer their probing questions during the reception. Sometimes people are just clueless or naive and need a little instruction or a soft reminder.
Try Being a Little Less Nice
If the situation calls for a second reprimand, feel free to be a little more assertive. Speak with authority and state what you wish for them to do. I have politely, yet firmly directed guests to take their seats as well as commanded a catering staff member to step aside so I could photograph the bride or groom. If spoken matter of factly, with little emotion, most people will comply, no questions asked.
Just Do It
I once had to physically move someone aside with my body to get a spur of the moment shot because, after repeatedly (and nicely) asking them to give me some space, they defiantly stood their ground. Sometimes you just have to get the shot and so I muscled my way in. I don’t think the guy even noticed that I was leaning against him and I got a great image of the couple entering the crowded reception hall. I’m not saying you have to get physical, but sometimes you just have to go ahead and do what you gotta do because it’s your job. You can’t please everyone and if you know your clients well, you’ll know what they would and wouldn’t approve of in the name of creativity. "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." sometimes applies in our line of work.
The Next to Last Resort
Most of the time, I try every avenue available to solve a problem before approaching the couple or client. After all, we are professionals and I want my clients to enjoy their event without me approaching them throughout the night to make decisions. However, some situations need to be brought to their attention, especially when it impedes the performance of contracted services.
The Absolute Last Resort
You’ve exhausted all possibilities. This person is not going to back off, be reasonable or allow you to perform your job. Just deal with it. Unless they are threatening your safety, verbally harassing you or have physically assaulted you, you’re going to have to work to the best of your ability and then try to avoid this person or situation in the future. I have added many clauses to my contract after certain clients, guests or vendors have tested my resolve. I have also flat out refused to do certain events if I believed it would place me in a similar situation.
Difficult guests and vendors are a common occurrence in our industry but how you handle them will set you apart and serve as an example to your clients and your team. High emotion, high stress events can be frustrating and test our patience but if you can remain calm, present yourself in an assertive manner, you can survive even the most egregious offense.
A note about safety and your rights as a vendor: You should not tolerate a threat to yourself, your team or your equipment while working and should immediately report such behavior to the company employing said person or the family of said guest. You do not have to tolerate sexual harassment of any kind from anyone while on the job. This is the one instance where I will walk away from an event or excuse a team member immediately if they feel uncomfortable or have been assaulted in any way. No client or event is worth more than your safety and well being.