How a Company Can Authentically Give Back to the LGBTQ+ Community

‘Tis the season of giving — as a company, giving back to the community is an empowering act that provides care for those in need and also sends you some positive vibes for the year ahead. When it comes to being a genuinely inclusive company, giving back is such an important aspect. The LGBTQ+ community still has so far to go regarding equal rights, and it takes an abundance of resources to get there. From volunteers to donors to sponsors, there is always room for more help in the fight for equality.

So, how can you invest your time and/or resources into giving back to the LGBTQ+ community?

I always encourage businesses to donate a portion of their sales to a charity or nonprofit — it’s easy and doesn’t take up much extra time, but it makes such a difference. There are so many nonprofits in the LGBTQ+ rights sector — my favorites are Freedom for All Americans and Freedom to Marry International, two incredible grassroots organizations that I’ve worked with closely. I offer a 10% discount to all vendor guide members when they sign up, with the option to either save it or donate it to Freedom for All Americans. Many choose to give! Others that support our cause are The Trevor Project, HRC, ACLU, Lambda Legal, The Transgender Law Center, and the Ali Forney Center (among many others).

Another great way to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights is to sponsor one of the many charity events these organizations host throughout the year. Donate your product or service, whether it’s photography, calligraphy, planning, catering, or the like — every bit of help is appreciated. When nonprofit organizations can rely on volunteer event professionals as opposed to in-house employees, it allows them to produce bigger and better events (and therefore, raise more money for the cause!).

Spend some time researching to ensure that your chosen charity is authentic. Become well-versed in the organization so that, in addition to giving back, you can also be a strong advocate for their fight and share its mission with your community.

Giving back to the LGBTQ+ community does not have to mean donating a ton of money — your time and your voice as an advocate are invaluable to the cause as well. Speak up, get involved, and help the fight in the ways that you can.

Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events.

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Customer Service Tips & Tricks to Keep Your Clients Loyal to You

No matter how the world we live in changes, there are some pillars of business that are comfortingly constant. One of those is the idea that every business has customers, and the key to any successful business is keeping those customers happy and loyal.

Check In Regularly

I started my wedding career over 17 years ago in the tuxedo business when many people didn’t yet have an email or a cell phone. Most communication happened by landline and snail mail. We reminded customers that they were on our minds by dialing them up and having a short conversation, or by sending a postcard or hand-written note to say, “We’re thinking about you.”

Today, most clients prefer to receive texts or emails, and we have adapted to accommodate. While the mode of communication has changed, however, the etiquette has not. Customers need to know that they matter and that you are thinking of them, especially in the weeks approaching their weddings and immediately after. Quick, no-pressure check-ins via text or email give them needed reassurance while respecting their time.  

Invite Honest Conversation

While sometimes it can be difficult to open yourself up to criticism or feedback, establishing the kind of relationship with your clients that encourages them to talk to you can be invaluable to your business. When you communicate, ask short, open-ended questions to allow honest and full responses.

Listen Before You Speak

Likewise, pay close attention to the questions your prospects and current clients are asking before giving them stock answers. Every couple thinks their wedding day is unique, and they should. They want to trust that you are going to be able to personalize their experience and cater to their needs. Listen to their concerns carefully so you can address them and help make their day as perfect as possible.

Follow Up on All Feedback

We send a survey immediately after a wedding, and again after our clients receive their final products. The survey is offered via text and email to get the most responses possible. We follow up on all feedback whether positive or negative. Often, the simple action of following up can mitigate a bad impression and restore customer loyalty.

Keep in Touch

We hear from clients all the time that they feel a sort of letdown after an event. During planning, they may have been in touch with their vendors regularly, then suddenly, after the big event, they feel abandoned.  Develop a long-term email or text campaign to help keep in touch with past clients. Follow up right after the event to ask for feedback, and send quick messages regularly thereafter. Wish your former clients happiness on their birthdays, drop a note on their anniversaries and just generally prove that they will always matter to you. If they ever have an opportunity to send a referral your way, you will be top-of-mind. The fortune is in the follow up.

Customer loyalty is earned. Demonstrate that you deserve yours by listening to your clients, connecting with them before and after their events, and always letting them know, in every practical and possible way, that you care.  

Keith Phillips is the Director of Business Development for Classic Photographers, a company that provides high quality wedding photography and videography services for the budget minded couple.

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Giving Back to Causes You're Passionate About

These days, it feels like there are an endless amount of causes to which you can donate both time and money. As a business owner, you hold a special position in your community and philanthropy is a honorable way to connect, engage, and aid those in need. I’ve truly realized how much my community has done to support me, so I always view charity as my turn to pass that support on. I’m a firm believer in the “pay it forward” movement, so it’s only right to return the support that I receive from my local community. Plus, it really does feel great to give back whenever possible. 

Take a step back and think about what causes speak to you. Are you an advocate for animals? Do you want to support survivors of trauma? Are you drawn to helping those who have suffered from a natural disaster? Or are you passionate about protecting the environment? The opportunities are countless — be sure to pick a cause that really resonates with you. Better yet, connect with your team and learn more about what hits them at the core. Find a way to incorporate these causes into your workflow, whether it’s through regular donations, event sponsorships, or participating in an annual 5k as a team.

For me, giving back to children is my biggest cause. In that, my company has done a lot of fundraising and sponsorship for local youth sports teams like the Livermore Little League baseball team and the Rhonewood Swim Club. For others with a similar inclination for helping kids, it doesn’t need to be sports-related — consider supporting local booster programs, big brother/big sister organization, food kitchens, and other public welfare resources that provide aid to children. We also ‘adopt’ families during the holidays to ensure that the festive spirit is spread to those who most need it.

It’s worth noting that there are a number of ways to help other event professionals in dire situations, especially during the event of a natural disaster that can displace people for extended periods of time. There are often crowdfunding campaigns and fundraising events put together to help event professionals. The SEARCH Foundation is also a great way to help industry peers in need — it provides assistance to event professionals who are suffering from a life threatening illness or other catastrophic life event.

Charity and philanthropy does not have to be a publicized matter; therefore, it doesn’t matter what cause you choose to donate your resources to so long as it’s something that is meaningful to you. Simply give from the heart and you can’t go wrong.  

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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Dealing with Negative Review as a Wedding Professional

It happens to the best of us –  you've worked hard to serve a difficult client; put in extra effort to salvage a sinking situation, scrambled to honor some last minute requests, did everything you could to make them happy while twisting yourself into a pretzel at their every whim, maybe even losing money in the process.

Or  it came out of the blue from a client you could have sworn was happy from start to finish.  

But there it is, staring you in the face on WeddingWire, Yelp or your Facebook page: a bad review of your product or service. 

Whatever the case, bad reviews hurt and can leave you afraid your reputation or worse, your very business,  is on the line. After all, that review is now at the top of the heap, the first thing everyone sees when searching out opinions on what you offer. And review sites aren't concerned with your business’s reputation - it’s in their interest to  make it difficult (if not impossible) to remove negative reviews, even unfair ones. Is it time to PANIC?!  

In short, NO. Bad reviews can not only be handled, they can even serve a positive purpose. It’s key, though, to approach them wisely.   

While your impulse might be to immediately write a flaming reply or a vigorous defence,  the first step is to to keep your emotions in check so you don’t make the things worse instead of better.  

According to Jay Baer, in his book Hug Your Hater’s, it takes 28 hours to fully process negativity and attacks. It’s OK to let a negative review sit for a day or even two while you consider a measured, concise response. Keep these points in mind while you work through what you want to say: 

A handful of negative reviews work to make your positive reviews look real and believable.  A 100% glowing review page can look suspicious, like it’s been planted with comments from Aunt Sarah and your mom, not real clients.

A few negative reviews help manage client expectations and keep them to realistic standards about your product or service. You might strive for perfection but that’s an ideal; allowances for being human are even better.

One person’s complaint is another person’s praise.  While Betty T. might hate that your sponge was “too gooey”, someone else came from an event with a cake like sawdust and thinks gooey sounds delicious.

So having a negative review is not in itself a ticking time bomb that will blow your business out of the water. Breathe and consider how you want to handle it before you act.

Ok, so now you are all zen about your bad review.  Maybe you are so zen you don’t even feel the need to respond at all. That can be perfectly fine. You know the negative review will move down the queue as more clients write positive ones.  

But if you do choose to respond keep one more thing in mind - like attracts like. If you are interested in appealing to and keeping reasonable, kind, rational clients respond to your negative reviewer with humor, compassion, and clarity.  Snark and sarcasm can be cathartic and fun and get you onto Reddit’s front page, but it can also color the feelings of future clients. Knowing a bad review isn’t the worst thing to happen to your business gives you the leeway to take the high ground and show your best self. And that’s a great way to turn a negative into a positive.

Christie Osborne is the owner of Mountainside Media, a company that helps event industry professionals brands develop scalable marketing strategies that brings in more inquiries and leads. Christie is a national educator with recent speaking engagements at NACE Experience, WIPA and the ABC Conference.


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How to Prep and Make the Most Out of Wedding MBA

Wedding MBA is one of our industry’s largest annual conferences featuring high-profile speakers, educational opportunities, and world-class networking. Event professionals from around the world attend to be in the presence of thought leaders and influencers and to experience the transformative energy that very few other conferences can match. Attending Wedding MBA is a great way to jumpstart your wedding business, find solutions to challenges you may be experiencing, and to learn what’s new and upcoming in our industry.

Participating is also a very real investment of your valuable time and money, so you want to do it right. Here are some tips to help you prepare for and make the most out of Wedding MBA.

Create a Plan in Advance

Read the conference program from beginning to end well in advance. Make notes about sessions you want to attend and breakouts that look interesting. While Wedding MBA registration includes all conferences events, sometimes there are meetups and gatherings that require separate RSVPs, so watch for them and be sure to add them to your calendar as well.

After you’ve reviewed the schedule, make an “ideal-world” outline that includes every session, event and activity you would attend if you could do it all. Highlight your must-sees, but also include things that would be nice to do if you can. Plan to take maximum advantage of your time and business opportunities while you’re Las Vegas – plan to rest when you get home!

Prepare for Power Networking

Check your supply of business cards in advance. Order in plenty of time to receive them before you depart if you need to restock. Update any marketing materials you might be bringing with you, as well, and check to make sure that your profiles and galleries on your website, blog and social media are all up-to-date and ready to be seen.

Wedding MBA is unique because participants have unprecedented access to big-name speakers and industry leaders. Do take advantage of this access by engaging professionally with them when natural opportunities present, but don’t be overzealous. Some speakers may be preparing for multiple presentations, experiencing jet-lag, or be overwhelmed between sessions by other attendees seeking a personal audience. Make introductions or greetings brief and sensible, and follow up after the conference to continue nurturing the connection. They will appreciate this approach over monopolizing their time at the conference far more than you can possibly imagine. 

Remember that the best networking results come from what you can offer others, such as referrals, content or opportunities, versus getting everything you can from them. Don’t start a new relationship by asking to be included on a preferred vendor list, or to have your work featured in a high-profile blog or magazine. Start with what you are willing to contribute and build from there.

Pack Accordingly

Be mindful of the weather in Las Vegas in November, which is generally pretty temperate during the day, and can cool off somewhat in the evenings. Consult your favorite weather site or app to get an exact read on conditions in the days approaching the conference. It’s always a good idea, when traveling, to pack layers so you can add or remove them as necessary.

Wear. Comfortable. Shoes. We shouldn’t have to say more. Pack plenty of adhesive bandages so blisters on sore feet don’t slow you down.

Also, take careful note of your itinerary. During the conference itself, most participants will dress in business casual, or business attire. If you are planning to attend any of the additional events, like those hosted by WeddingWire and The Knot, you’ll want to have something dressier on hand – something appropriate for a fun evening out. You should also pack for any other get-togethers you anticipate attending, including client meetings or appointments with colleagues. 

The annual Wedding MBA conference is always an exciting time for our industry. Make it a meaningful addition to your professional development through careful planning and a commitment to the experience while you’re there. Both you and your business will be stronger as a result, and ready to take on whatever opportunities and challenges come your way.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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