5 Ways to Protect Your Collaborative Relationships, by @projectmaven

I am all about collaboration. For me it’s the model for most of my projects. I even think collaboratively when it comes to notably solitary endeavors, like writing short stories. Once I finish penning my literary masterpieces (MASTERPIECES, I tell you…), I know I’ll need people to help me edit, proofread, sell and promote my work. I’ll want to work with photographers and graphic designers. I may even want to join up with other writers to create anthologies of our collective work.

It’s the same thing in the event world, even more so… Whether you’re creating a corporate event or a wedding, a conference or a birthday party, you are going to need a team of professionals to pull together all the pieces of your vision in order to produce the best possible outcome. The way you interact with your collaborators will determine much about the end result, but more importantly, about the process.

A word about process. To keep this from becoming too abstract, let’s just think about process as how it feels along the way to getting everything accomplished. Do you like the people you’ve chosen to be on your team? Do you trust them? Do you work efficiently and easily together? Are you comfortable spending hours and hours together during the long days and nights it often takes to get your event up and running? Because when all is said and done, particularly in a big event city like New York, there are countless planners, vendors, venues and volunteers with whom you could be doing business. The question is, can your team successfully work through the inevitable conflicts and challenges inherent in planning events that will no doubt arise somewhere along the way?

It’s best if you start out with a few general rules that will protect you and the integrity of your project during the getting to know you process with your collaborators, all the way into the solidifying of your relationships.

1)     Take time to check each other out. We all do a lot of networking in this business, and it’s easy to be impressed with folks upon first meeting, because we’re all trying to put our best foot forward, right? The thing is, you’ll need to see how people operate under fire to find out what they’re really made of… Try not to jump into long term commitments with new collaborators until you’ve had a chance to weather a few storms together out in the field. There’s no rush.

2)      Understand that in every collaborative relationship, there is a value exchange. This goes for whether you are working with a volunteer, an intern, a paid consultant, a full time employee, a co-producer or a charity partner. Your needs and goals will be very different from those of each of your different partners, and that’s to be expected. Just knowing that gives you the opportunity to evaluate whether you are willing and able to provide the necessary compensation to the other parties and visa versa. Does it feel like a good trade? Excellent.

3)      Agree on the terms of your exchange up front.  You’d best each know EXACTLY what it is you expect of each other going into your working experience. Make sure you put it in writing, so there’s no confusion down the road. Depending on the size and scope of the job, your agreement can range from a formal contract to an email stating your understanding of the job and each of your responsibilities and expectations.

4)      Be generous. I can’t stress this one enough. If everyone were to infuse their work with a spirit of generosity, we would be creating an entirely different social landscape in which to conduct our business. If you don’t trust your partners enough to give them your all and then some, choose different partners. The investment you make in energy and resources will come back to you down the road. It’s good karma, and practically a law of physics!

5)      Be flexible. Do what you can to work together towards your mutual goal. If you recognize the need to change terms or procedures midway in your process, go to your partner with your concerns and see what you can work out. You’re supposed to be on the same team here, so the rules go both ways. It’s most helpful to try and avoid antagonism and opposition during a creative process, and producing an event is nothing if not a process.

Once you discover who your people are, you are going to want to protect those relationships at all cost. By the same token, if you have a bad working experience with someone, it would be best not to engage with them on future projects if you can help it. Building a solid team is key to your success as a planner and a producer.  When you enjoy spending time with one another AND you work well together, you’ll find yourself not only having fun, but providing the best services to your clients and creating kick-ass events.

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