This past weekend, esteemed British actor and director Sir Richard Attenborough died at the age of 90. Some of his achievements included producing and directing “Gandhi” for which he won an academy award, and the nice but creepy grandfather-like developer of Jurassic Park. I heard the news Sunday night, but this morning saw a brief interview of him some 20 years ago where he said that “ I never focused on the details, I stayed focus on the big picture.” This struck me. I have said for years that understanding the goals of an event and sticking to them is more important than the details. The details will come, and if you are good, you will work through them in proper time. Big picture? Well…..that’s simply the big picture!
Every organization requires leadership that has to state what their goals are. Every event needs to have big picture thinking and leadership to bring that big picture to life. Can you imagine if we all were simply trying to connect the dots? I believe that there is a general impression that the typical event manager is an over the top A type personality with a blue tooth attachment to their head that makes them look like Mr. Spock and with the tenacity of an NFL linebacker. Folks that are more focused on what type of chicken, or working the registration table, rather than whether the message that needs to be delivered to the greater audience is delivered.
Years ago when I used to work in the hotel industry, I remember sitting with one of my staff members as an observer as I had just started a new job of Director of Catering and Convention Services outside Washington DC. I remember that this woman had her checklist and sat with a bride to be, and simply stayed focused on her arrival time, menu, and payment plan. There was never a plan to review her emotional needs, such as “What do you want to feel like when you part for your honeymoon?” “What are you most nervous about? Let’s discuss that” or “Who do you want to please the most?” In a similar meeting one of my staff members met with a member of the secret service for an event for a high level Presidential appointee, and only asked about the times and AV needs. Never did she ask what the event was being held for. Who the audience was? Why did they want to do this event at our hotel, and not at the white house?
In our personal lives, don’t we have a big picture? Like owning a home, and eventually paying it off. Or retiring at a certain age, or putting our kids through school. Or finding the right job to extol your passion. The more we ask our clients about their goals and the Big Picture, the more we have the opportunity to add value as event planners and managers. Some clients are hazy and haven’t thought it through and are only focused on the budget and clean execution. Sometimes asking them forces them to really think about their goals. That’s called a partnership.
To you Richard Attenborough. A big thinker with big accomplishments. Rest in Peace.