I was in a meeting with a client once and we were going over some new awesome coolness they had recently seen and figuring out how to integrate it into their event. They were over-the-moon excited about this thing and couldn't wait to debut it as soon as possible. Actually-, they were more than excited. If we weren't in a public setting, I'm pretty sure they would have been pacing or exclaiming loudly about how jazzed they were and how awesome it was. Thankfully, decorum and common sense prevailed and they stayed seated, albeit with a tremendous amount of difficulty and ants-in-pantsyness.
Now, I thrive on creative energy and love when my clients come with new ideas that get them excited- it makes my job that much easier. So, in this instance, I did what every professional in my shoes would have done. I looked them in the eyes, and between exclamatory utterings, I told them, "I don't think this is the right fit for this particular event."
They were crestfallen.
I thought that they might fire me.
So did they.
Seeing the look on their face, I quickly interjected that I didn't think it was a bad idea, just that it might not be the best fit for this particular event. Many times I've had a client show up to a meeting super excited about something they think is awesome and new and can't wait to make it a part of their next event. In the past, I've spent my time researching and understanding their new thing and then figured out a way to integrate it into the event. In some cases, it's worked out. In other cases, it's failed miserably. Was the client wrong about how cool and awesome this new thing was? No, not at all- they just didn't pick the tool that was right for their event and didn't accurately understand their guests. The latter is where it all falls apart. In my experience, almost every instance where a piece of technological interaction has failed has not been because the tech wasn't cool, new, or cutting edge, but rather because it was wrong for the group in question. In those instances, moving forward with what the client wants just because they want it and are "always right" is most certainly the wrong move and the least professional thing we can do.
Clients come to us to be the experts and are looking for us to guide them to the best decision for their experience. What they're not always factoring in is that their event isn't about their experience at all, but rather the experience of their guests. Imagine if we put everything a client wanted into their event, even if we knew the guests wouldn't connect with it. Imagine if we were right and the guests didn't and told the client that they felt disconnected. Do you believe the client is always going to remember that it was their idea that led to the disconnect? Or will it instead be seen as a missed opportunity on our part? I'd argue that, in most cases, it's the latter. That's why it's up to us to look out, not only for the client's interests but for their guests' interests as well, because those are so often overlooked.
I encourage you to get to know, not only your clients, but the guests at their events as well. Don't just guess at who will be there- really get to know them. Understand the demographics and psychographics of the event and, more importantly, learn how you can use them in creating an experience that guests love and that will make your client look like the rockstar they are (or want to be). So often we shy away from letting data define the experiences we create, but a little bit of research will go a long way in creating an experience that everyone will love and connect with. Using things like Google Trends and the Pew Research Center's vast library of reports will help you understand things you would otherwise have missed. Talking with the guys over at Bear Analytics will help you make sense of any data you've already collected (even the data you didn't know you'd collected but did) and give you steps to use that data to impact your event. Beyond all the online tools, get out and see what the people who will be coming to the event do and are involved in/like. I promise that, whoever the guests are, there's a group of them in your city. Go to their events/restaurants/hangouts and just watch what and how they interact- you'll be amazed at what you find.
Bottom line- observe then act. Step back and then design/create. Your events and your clients will be better for it.