Despite a thick casebook of events this was a first because I had never worked with a Polish agency before. So we needed to get to know one another and to get to grips with a new culture… From the company point of view there wasn’t much to worry about as it was a pharmaceutical laboratory and my experience in that area served me well. From a ‘culture’ and ‘customs’ point of view, there was all to be learnt!
In competition with several agencies in the region, I won the tender for two reasons: I replied exactly to their request within the time limit and, above all, had from the beginning established a telephone relationship with my client.
The apprenticeship of our differences began with our reconnaissance trip when the whole programme went up in the air and on the hop I had to organise unplanned viewings of sites.
Two months’ after the recce, the programme was finally decided and we were focusing on the details – mainly to do with the last evening in a privatised chateau near Toulouse. That was followed by a period of three months discussing tablecloths, crockery, lighting, verrines, menus and….chairs! I had lost count of the number of suggestions and photos sent by email so that I could determine the style, colour and material of the chairs for the gala evening: white, red, Napoleon III, Montaigne, crystal, chrome, upholstered or not, with or without supplement. So much so that the caterer started to lose patience while the fateful date of the event got closer and closer with the risk of having nothing resolved. But finally: “Great! I love that one!”
Through this exchange, however, I learned how to identify my client’s tastes and was therefore able to pre-empt her requests and adapt the format and the content of the gala evening.
That was the start of it and once on site, during the event, which lasted six days, my client was a bundle of nerves and I must have responded to a good number of unexpected requirements:
“Caroline, I need six gifts for 1.00pm.” (It’s now 11.00am)
“Caroline, we need to serve mashed potato to everyone!” (Uh, mash for 100 people right now? Surely we can have something else?)
“Caroline, Mr (VIP) wants to visit Airbus.” (It’s fully booked but we’ll find a solution…and find a car!)
“Caroline, we need 50 bottles of wine, immediately!” (It’s midnight and I am obliged to wake one of my suppliers who very kindly opened his restaurant to furnish me with the wine (which was not needed in the end, but that’s just a detail!)
“Caroline, my technicians are hungry.” (We’re in the middle of the countryside, nothing around us – go for pizzas?)
“Caroline, Mr X forgot is ipad at Security! Can you send it to me by express courier?” (After-sales service!)
Despite all these demands (the client is king, no?), I got my reward when both of us were in one of the back rooms at the chateau ‘rolling’ the menus and tying them with red cord:
“Caroline, I just want to share something with you” (Argh, what’s it going to be this time?)
“Yeeess?” I respond apprehensively.
“It’s the first time that an event has been so serene. Frankly, everything’s going so smoothly and you’re always so calm, it’s a real pleasure to work with you!”