» Are You Too Busy To Be Successful?

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

One of my presentation titles is: “Are you too busy to be successful?,” which, like many of my topics, came from discussions I’ve had with wedding & event professionals like you. Being busy is easy. Whether it’s email or social media, family obligations or volunteering, staying busy is easy. Getting the things done that you want and need is another story. And since we’re not getting any more hours in the day, what’s the answer for busy wedding and event professionals?

And the answer is…

Well, the answer is the same for you, as it is for me, and it’s one word… priorities. We simply make the time for the things that we prioritize. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard? We have to realize when we’re controlling our priorities, and when we’re allowing others, or outside forces to control them. We also have to realize that we can change our priorities whenever we want. Still sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so fast.

What’s my priority today?

Have you ever gotten a call from a friend who offers to take you to the ball game, or show, or concert, on short notice? You had plans for that day/time, but you change them so you can go with your friend. In other words, you changed your priority for that time slot. Sure, whatever you were going to do probably still needs to get done, it just moved down a notch, or two, on your priority list.

But I just. Can’t. Stop…

I know, from personal experience, that there are times when we’re doing something other than what we know we should. Maybe we’re spending time on Facebook, when we know there are emails to be answered, or proposals to write, or laundry to do. Sometimes there’s an invisible force that tells us “I’ll just look at one more post” or “I’ll only click one more link…”, but one leads to four, leads to ten, leads to another hour lost. Hey, we’re only human. The first step in correcting this behavior is realizing that you’re doing it. Then, you need the willpower to cut yourself off. In other words, you need to change your priorities.

The most important word you need to know

Something else that makes us too busy is taking work on which we know we should pass. If you’re relatively new in your business, it’s likely that you’re taking any, and every customer that comes your way. That makes sense, but eventually we all learn that we don’t want every sale. The pressure often comes when we chase the big dollar sale, only to have it take way more time and resources than we anticipated. That time is taken from your core customers, and your family time, and you may even have to pass on some smaller, yet more profitable customers to accommodate the one big one.

When I’m consulting with businesses, like yours, I want you to focus on profitability, not just top line growth. Getting more revenue is great but keeping more of it is better. I recently had a client tell me they wanted to be the biggest company in their market/category. I suggested that they focus on being the most profitable, rather than the biggest. My favorite expression for that is that I don’t care about feeding your ego, if it’s not feeding your family. So, the most powerful word you have is “No.” it’s hard to pass on more sales. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I raised my rates so I could take less work this year, but it backfired. I’m busier than ever. Clearly, I haven’t learned to say “No” as much as I should.

Stop throwing money at me

I did say “No” to the highest paying speaking gig I’d ever been offered, because I wasn’t the right fit. They were even offering to change the date of their event, and it was a significantly higher fee than I had been getting at the time. But my expertise doesn’t extend to their industry. It’s close, but they really should have someone who understands the nuances, and legalities of their world. While I could learn them, it would have taken me away from my core audience. Also, if I were the customer, I wouldn’t want someone learning my industry on my dime. I would want to hire someone who is already an expert. Isn’t that why your customers hire you? Because you’re already the expert.

Can you be successful without being busy?

I’m sure you can, but busy isn’t a bad thing. It’s being too busy to get to do the things you want that is bad. If you’re not spending time with family and friends, that’s bad. If you’re always playing catch-up, getting things done at the last minute, that’s bad. If you’re not getting to your big-picture, to-do list items, that’s bad. I wrote in a recent post titled Self-Help versus Shelf-Help,” which includes a section about keeping only two or three things on your big To-Do List, so you can get more done. You really can be more productive, without being too busy. I’m a realist, so I know that your wedding season is going to be busy. But, if you prioritize what’s most important, and learn to say no a little more often, you’ll be able to see when you’re creating more busy-ness than necessary. Here’s to your success!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» 5 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals

Photo by Rania Marie Photography

Throughout wedding season, you will be working with plenty of new clients and wedding professionals, many of whom will be happy to pass your name around to future engaged couples if you make a great, lasting impression.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals, especially from other industry professionals, are great ways to gain powerful business exposure and build trust with potential clients, yet many wedding professionals are hesitant to ask for them. If you want to start seeing more referrals (and we are positive that you do!) follow some of these tips:

Set expectations early

Early in the client process, you should let your clients know that feedback, reviews and referrals are very important to you. Explain how they help you better your business and gain new clients. It also is important to indicate that you appreciate and value all feedback, and that you will be following up to ask for it after their event. Having this conversation early in the planning process and throughout will reinforce how important it is to your business. Happy couples are most likely to help you out after you make their dream day come true, so make sure that you are not only having this conversation, but doing your best work, too!

Ask for feedback

Requesting reviews as part of your standard post-event follow up routine is so important. If you are not sure you want the client to submit a review, still follow up and ask for feedback and if they would recommend you to another engaged couple. They will appreciate that you care to check in on how you did, and all feedback can be valuable as you build your business.

Consider an incentive

If you really want to encourage past clients to refer your business, consider offering an incentive. Offer a fun freebie, or a discount on a post-wedding service that you can provide (such as infant photo shoots, or a discount on a flower arrangement or cake). Offering deals on post-wedding services is a great way to keep past clients in your circle. The more contact you have with past clients, the faster you will come top of mind when a friend asks for a recommendation.

Say thank you

Always say thank you for reviews and referrals! Let the referrer know that you appreciate their feedback, and be sure to acknowledge their support of your business. They took the time to write you a recommendation or share your information with a contact, so it is important you show the same respect and address their referral to maintain the positive relationship. Consider sending a personal note or small thank you gift, it’s a small gesture that will be much appreciated and could lead to many more referrals in the future!

Network

As you know, networking in the wedding industry is crucial. Many professionals are asked by couples who they would recommend in the local area for a wide variety of service categories, making it an easy way to book more business. Join local organizations, national associations in your service category, attend local networking events and always take the time to introduce yourself to other vendors working the events you book. Creating a strong circle of fellow wedding professionals is mutually beneficial to everybody involved: you get the opportunity to recommend your top contacts and those contacts will do the same for you.  

Capturing qualified leads through referrals will boost your business and make busy season work for you all year long. Maybe your busy season will extend far beyond October! Be sure to be open with your clients about referrals and never be afraid to seek them out. Also rely on your network and always be thankful to secure referrals. Best of luck!

» Why Failure IS an Option

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards of success.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» 5 Things Couples Look for in Your Wedding Reviews

Before reaching out to a wedding professional, engaged couples like to read wedding reviews to get a better understanding of your business. In fact, our data shows that 83% of searching couples like to hear what they should expect, not from the vendors themselves, but from past customers who’ve been in their position.

We’ve compiled the top five things engaged couples are looking for in your wedding reviews to help you understand their frame of mind when evaluating your business:

Responsiveness

One of the biggest things couples look for in your past reviews is whether or not reviewers comment on your responsiveness. Since research shows that most couples expect to hear back from a vendor within 24 hours, your ability to respond quickly and effectively is a huge consideration during the planning process. On average, 13 wedding vendors are involved in a couple’s wedding, so they’re constantly communicating back and forth with multiple professionals. They need a professional who won’t make them chase him or her down to get an answer to a question or sign a contract.

Consistency

When looking at your past reviews, couples are most interested in professionals that have consistently positive reviews. They’re looking to see if most of your clients had a similar experience, and reading the comments your clients have made to see what patterns may emerge. While consistency is key, it’s okay to have a few less-than-favorable reviews scattered throughout your review history. Survey data suggests that 72% of consumers find a variety of opinions to be valuable when reading through reviews. Couples understand that feedback is subjective and having a few imperfect reviews does not necessarily prevent a couple from contacting you.

Quality of work

Obviously, the quality of your work is a huge consideration for newly engaged couples – everyone has a vision for their big day and wants to hire the right professional to turn that dream into reality. Potential clients look for reviewers commenting on how perfect the day was, and if there was anything that could be improved about the process with your business. A great way to display the quality of your work and support your positive reviews is to update the photos on your platforms regularly.

Timeliness

Because the wedding day typically requires a tight timeline with many tasks and coordinated events, your timeliness is an important factor that couples look for in reviews. A reviewer (or multiple reviewers) complaining that you or an employee were late suggests to potential clients that you may be unreliable. Again, a few complaints along these lines can often end up being isolated incidents under special circumstances, but it could be hurting your inquiries if problems with timeliness are shown to be a pattern.

Professionalism

At the end of the day – no matter what your service category is – engaged couples are looking to hire a professional. They’re looking for someone to guide them through the process, because most couples have never planned a wedding before. They want to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of the industry and can help them prepare. Potential clients scour your reviews to look for comments on your interactions with past clients as well as other professionals and wedding guests. The content of your emails and sales consultations also plays into your professionalism, so remember to be professional in all interactions with a potential client.

» Branding Considerations for Newly-Diversified Services

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Diversification is one of the key ways that owners of event businesses can boost income, attract new customers and ensure longevity in our competitive and dynamic industry. Once you have decided which complementary products or services to add to your business, (or other businesses you might acquire), you’ll need to get the word out and make sure your new branding makes sense to your market and peers.

What do you need to consider when branding your newly-diversified services?

The new you

As you expand your business offerings or choose new products and services to complement your brand, it’s important to have a distinct brand identity that encompasses both brands. For example, at one time Fantasy Sound was comprised of separate companies, one for DJ services and one for AV services. The names were similar, but the branding was different and people were confused. We fused the two companies together to create Fantasy Sound Event Services with a unified brand and our business took off.

Determine how the services relate

Wondering how to fuse your services into a single cohesive brand? Go back to the market research that you did before you diversified. You determined that your clients had additional needs and you had the product, skill and talent to fulfill their needs, right? Reflect on what you discovered about your clients during that phase and try to come up with a way to project a brand that addresses all of the needs you are able to meet.

Of course, you’ll also want to identify the biggest strengths of each brand. What are you bringing to the table that is unique to your business and superior when compared to competitors? It’s very similar to the process of branding your original company – you need to know your target market and how to identify those characteristics of your business that meet their unique needs. Then make sure you’re appealing to them and reaching them with your message.

Avoid this common mistake

The biggest mistake that business owners make when taking on a new brand and merging it with their existing business is not realizing the amount of time and the scope of work that the new brand requires. More often than not, the process is not as simple as “plug and play”. You’ll have to go back to the drawing board to create a new brand image, and success will take time. Plan for this when doing projections, managing income and revenue, and preparing for a period of challenging days, weeks and months ahead. But know that your efforts will be worth it in the long run.

Measure your success

Constantly evaluate your efforts once you have established your branding and always review the numbers on a regular basis. Acquiring a new brand absorbs a lot of capital in the beginning and you may not see a return for a while, so stay mindful of the overall trend. Set goals and determine what success means to you and how long you are willing to wait for it.

Creating a cohesive brand for your original company and your acquisitions may not have been the exciting part of diversification you were waiting for, but it is critical. Done well, it will likely be the key to your success.

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

» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

It’s important to remember that the wedding industry is all about customer service. With busy season right in front of us, managing clients and keeping them happy while under pressure can be quite difficult. But it’s a job you must do diligently and with a smile. To better prepare for the sudden 0-to-60, it’s best to acknowledge some expectations for yourself and of your clients. By thinking about how you might feel and what your clients will expect of you before busy season starts, you can ace client relationships and keep everyone happy… yourself included! Here’s how:

Communicate expectations

Most clients aren’t wedding professionals, so they probably don’t understand what exactly busy season entails for you or realize the sheer amount of other work you have. It is always best to be open with clients from the start. Discuss your workload with them to let them know what you can deliver so that they can set their expectations for your services accordingly.

However, this isn’t to say that you should spread yourself too thin, set low expectations, or overbook yourself. When the quality of your work diminishes because you are overworked or setting the bar too low, your client relationships and in turn, your business, will hurt because of it. Know how much you can handle and what you can deliver.

Clarify next steps

At the end of any conversation, be ready to articulate your plan of action and/or clearly outline next steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Repeat the items you are responsible for, and remind them of anything they need to provide to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that you will always  follow-through and keep things organized.

Get to know your clients beyond their wedding

Before you start going over the details of the couples’ wedding or event, you’ll need to establish a connection with the couple. Getting to know them a little more can inform your decisions throughout the rest of the relationship (pro tip: find out early on what communication methods they prefer, and follow suit!). You should also take the time to talk a little about yourself so they understand more about you and why your business best fits their needs. Remember: the better the connection, the more apt they will be to refer you to their friends!

You get what you put in

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. When your clients only have positive interactions with you, they will likely be more understanding if you aren’t able to respond to an email right away or if you can’t suddenly accomodate a large-scale, last minute demand. Not that you should ever be putting your clients’ needs on the backburner, but we are all human.  A little kindness and flexibility goes a long way.

Budget the time to go the extra mile

Going the extra mile for clients is important because it shows your dedication to your work and will also be what clients remember the most about you. It might be hard finding time to put in a little extra work to make something special, so it’s smart to budget this extra time from the beginning. Scheduling this time as a non-negotiable will guarantee that you can give some very special attention to each client. You won’t be under the wire to outperform and your clients will be grateful for your extra work.

Keep reviews and referrals in mind at all times

Every time you deliver a service or communicate with your clients, you should be thinking about the review a client will give you for it. When you work with the mindset that a review will be written for every interaction you have with a client, it will ensure that you are providing your client with the best experience possible. Plus, keep in mind that happy clients often lead to referrals down the road, too!

Busy season might have it’s unique set of challenges, but no matter the stress, you get to do what you love – bringing couples dreams to life! It’s the special client relationships you cultivate that leave you with the feeling of success, pride, and accomplishment (and the resulting reviews and referrals) that make busy season worth all of the long, hard hours.

» How to Make the Most out of Conferences (and Better Your “Today” List)

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love going to conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning, not just in the sessions, but also in the hallways and at the social events. Ideas come at you from all directions, it’s often like drinking from a firehose. If you’re like me, you come away with more ideas than you can possibly use. That’s good. You just need to learn to prioritize (more on that later). The problem I see, all too often, is when we come away from a conference, with more ideas than we can use, we end up not using any of them. Those pages and pages of notes, whether on paper or digital, end up on a shelf, never to see the light of day again. So, how do you change your conference habits (and general to-do list management) from overwhelming “shelf-help” that gets lost in the mix to truly productive “self-help”?

Why do we do it?

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a really good reason why we don’t take action on those pages of notes and new ideas. All I know is that I’m just as guilty of it as you are. Or, at least I used to be. I take less notes than I used to, partly because I know that the more I take, the less I’m likely to look at them. It’s more intimidating to see that I have 20 pages of notes, than 3. So, I’m more selective and try to focus my notes to my needs.

Putting it into perspective

Another reason I think we don’t take action is because we get distracted. Buzzwords are flying around, shiny products are on display and other attendees are regaling us with their stories of success. The challenge there is separating the fiction from the non-fiction. Let’s just say that some people tend to exaggerate, or selectively leave out the challenges they’re facing. It’s not unlike how on social media we tend to only see the great successes, without the struggles or investments, in money and time, that led to that success. You can’t reap the rewards unless you’re willing to make the investment (or sacrifice).

How do you measure success?

The next challenge in evaluating opportunities and new ideas is that each of us defines our success in our own way. Our needs are different. Our expenses are different. Our goals are different. Just because someone else is seeing their version of success with a new idea, doesn’t mean that will work for you. Use your own compass and plot your own course. Don’t use someone else’s map to find your path.

But, we can’t do them all!

Exactly! You can’t do them all, no one can. That’s why you need to learn to prioritize your ideas and limited time. I learned to do this over 10 years ago, at my first National Speakers Association conference. We had three very full days of meetings. On the last day, at the last session, the association national president addressed the group. He told us to make a list of all of the ideas we had heard. Then, told us we should prioritize the list, in the order of how they would most benefit our businesses. And then, and here’s the hard part, to keep the top 3 things and then physically get rid of the rest of the list. You can’t focus on 20 or 30 things. You’ll just end up diluting your time between too many things, getting nothing done. When you focus your time on only 3 things, you’ll get way more accomplished. After you complete those items, make a new list. If some of the things from your original list are still important, they’ll show up again. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they rarely do. Once you have finished the things on your list, your business, and you personally, are in a different place. Things that were important before, just aren’t important now.

“To-Do List” vs. “Today List”

I’ve been living my life that way since that conference. It was hard, at first, to erase my dry-erase board, with its myriad of ideas and projects. Sure, I took a picture of it, before erasing it, but I haven’t looked at that photo… ever. And yet, I’ve accomplished more than I ever had. The things on my short list are not my daily tasks. Replying to email, marketing and writing content are a different list. I like to refer to them as my “Today List”. The big picture items are my “To-Do List”. Writing a new book is usually on my to-do list. When I finish one, I start writing the next one. Learning a new language made it onto my new list. Then presenting in that language. Next, for me, is doing the audio version of one of my books, in Spanish. A lofty goal? Sure. But what good are goals you can easily hit? Actually, my uncle once told me never to use the word “goals, ” because it’s self-limiting. Think bigger, and you can achieve more. Don’t try to just reach a goal, try to do the best you can, every day.

So, what does your shelf look like?

Have you filed away years-worth of conference or webinar ideas, without ever acting on them? How many notebooks, filled with notes, are on your shelf, or filed away? How many things are on your big-picture, to-do list? Do you really need them all? Or, can you keep the first 2 or 3, and focus all of your energy on those? It takes a little faith and a little courage to shorten your list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating, like a huge weight has been lifted. And then, when you start to get more done, you’ll be encouraged to keep making short lists. Here’s to helping yourself (and not your shelf)!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Time is one of the most valuable assets any business can possibly have – time to build infrastructure, attract new clients, serve current clients and stay in touch with past clients. Time is a limited resource, however, and way too often we waste it when we could be maximizing it and experiencing growth.

Understanding the impact that wasting time and properly managing it can have on your business is critical to your success. Achieving maximum success requires maximum time efficiency. So how do you manage it?

Make a to-do list

We might think we’re the ultimate multitaskers, but our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Making a to-do list allows you to prioritize tasks that need to be done and keep track of how much you’ve accomplished and how much is left. It is a simple way to make your use of time more efficient. If you don’t like paper lists, try going high-tech and keeping yours on your phone or tablet.

Recognize common time traps

In order to fix a problem, you need to clearly define what the problem is, right? Time issues tend to sneak up on people because we think we’re working hard. Email is a prime example. Checking it all day and at home simply diverts you from doing actual work. Busy is not the same thing as productive. What other functions take too long and drain the life from your business?

Eliminate email waste

First, leave your email for the office. Use your time at home to take care of yourself, your health, your family and those non-work affairs that need addressing so you can be your best self at work. Turn off your notifications so incoming mail does not interrupt your workflow. Set aside 15-minute periods to address what needs to be done in your inbox, generally not more than three times each day, unless your email volume requires additional time. Maximize the efficiency of your email management by setting reminders to act on waiting emails, using templates for responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries and using software or an app that allows you to schedule emails in advance.

Use apps to help manage time

Instead of trying to keep up on your own, leverage technology and research and select apps that take over the functions you’re currently trying to manage by hand. There are social media apps that you can use to pre-schedule content and monitor your presence. Financial apps that can help with payroll, accept payments from your customers and assist in preparing your taxes each year. Event software apps take all of the work out of seating arrangements for your clients and creating all important timelines. You can win back so much time you are currently wasting in your business by simply identifying helpful apps.

Good time management essentially boils down to identifying areas of weakness and addressing them with best practices and great technology. You can take your wedding business to a whole new level by taking control of your time management. Don’t wait – start today!

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 current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and National Vice President for WIPA.

» Top 5 Wedding Trends for 2018

With 2018 in full swing and busy season right around the corner, it’s time to dive into the top wedding trends couples will be requesting this year. We have the inside scoop from Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire’s Associate Director of Content and Creative Services, on the top five trends you can expect to see pop up. Many of these trends may come as a surprise, as couples begin to stray away from the “traditional” and opt for the “unconventional”.

1. Metallics, marbles and geometrics

Photo by Jennifer Weems Photography

So maybe this one doesn’t come as a total surprise, but the biggest decor trend from 2017 will be a highlight yet again for 2018 weddings. Metallics, specifically gold-toned metallics, are still in! Smaller metallic decor pieces, such as votives and charger plates, are as popular as ever because they are small enough to be understated, yet still manage to pack a huge punch overall. Not only do metallics add an extra layer of “umph” to any look, but metallics are a great way to help make everything look and feel more luxe.

Couples are also choosing metallic pieces with geometric shapes to make their wedding feel more modern. Geometric shapes provide a cool break between the ultra-softness and romance of floral elements. Stone elements, such as marble pieces, are also being utilized for the same reason. We don’t care if this is a repeat trend, we love it and are happy to see these favorites stick around!

2. Keeping it casual

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

Weddings are becoming more of a casual affair, believe it or not! Younger couples have been choosing to go for a more laid-back route during their wedding festivities. In what might be the biggest departure from “traditional” style weddings, casual affairs have been trending because they are “no fuss”. Guests are able to feel more at ease and couples have less to worry about on their big day. Ultimately, comfort and simplicity are the main goal of casual weddings, and we think they look great!

Grooms and groomsmen have arguably kicked off the casual trend, as the popularity of less formal male attire started popping up more and more. However, this year, casual groom attire is set to take off. Expect to see less suit coats, more unconventional shoes, and even silly socks on grooms. Females have also begun to adopt more casual styles, too. Brides in particular have opted for more natural, effortless hairstyles for their big day as opposed to the previously popular ultra-sophisticated updo.

Formal styles aren’t the only thing to disappear in 2018. Formal traditions are also becoming less popular with millennial couples. Sorry Mom and Dad, but it looks like the Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances are quickly fading! Revered traditions like these dances, and even couple send offs (particularly involving sparklers) are now starting to be seen as “outdated” and “cliche” by millennial couples. While it may be sad to see some old traditions go, know that couples are opting to nix certain elements in order to replace them with their own creative and new traditions.

3. Greenery

Photo by Blueflash Photography     

While floral elements have always been a huge aspect of weddings, never before has such an emphasis been placed on natural greenery. From moss decor walls to leafy table runners, greenery isn’t just for bouquet filler anymore. Dare we say it, but greens might even surpass flowers this year! Greenery provides freshness and brightness to any arrangement, and can also can provide a lot of diversity, too. Beyond looking great, greens are also a more cost-friendly option for couples to consider when compared to flowers. So where will you find the most greenery this year? Jeffra notes that our couples are loving their natural greens in large wall or hanging displays, low table centerpieces, and in cascading bouquets.

4. Outdoor space

Photo by Patrick Nied Photography

Couples love outdoor weddings! Outdoor venues have always been popular with our couples, but their popularity is only expected to grow. Garden venues, followed by barn venues, are the most popular places amongst couples for their wedding celebrations. Even though the warmer summer months still make up “prime season”, more and more couples have been hosting fall weddings. As a matter of fact, 1 in 3 couples now get married in the fall, and nearly 15% of all weddings take place in October. In many locations, Autumn weather is still perfect for an outdoor celebration, if not cozy. So too, nature’s seasonal change provides the most beautiful backdrop for photos. With the ever-increasing popularity of outdoor venues, your calendars are bound to be filled with outdoor bookings this year!

5. Food displays

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

We saved the best for last: food! +50% more couples are choosing to eliminate plated service in favor of food displays. Food displays, different from a buffet, are highly stylized tables and offer unique, themed food options where guests can help themselves. Food displays allow for couples to customize their offerings to fit their personalities and can be much more flexible in execution when compared to a more regimented plated or buffet service. From pizza to a bacon-lovers spread, couples are picking these personalized setups over all other meal options because they are easy, fun and most importantly, delicious. Displays are also cost effective, as they can be significantly cheaper than a plated service.

We are so excited to see how these trends adapt and grow in 2018. The biggest takeaway that we have learned (other than knowing that great snacks lie ahead!) is that couples are striving to implement unique designs and traditions that are truly their own. Simply put, customization is important to couples as they plan their 2018 weddings. If you are able to offer custom services or work with your clients to provide them a unique service, you can expect your couple to be over the moon with your work. We hope that this personalization-craze allows both you and your clients the opportunity to work creatively and create incredible new experiences and content. Who knows? Maybe you will set the next big trend.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “2018 Trends: Insights from Today’s Couples” by Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire Associate Director of Content and Creative Services. 

» How Strong Are Your Lead Replies?


In the vastly competitive wedding industry, everyone is striving for a large volume of high quality leads – but those leads aren’t worth much unless you know how to turn them into a sale. How you reply to each lead plays a pivotal role in the success of booking the client. These quick tips will help you optimize your lead replies so you’re more likely to receive a positive response and ultimately win their business!

Don’t forget to be personal

Clients know you’re busy, but responding to an email inquiry with an auto response may not have the positive impact you intended. About 25% of couples don’t like generic automated responses, as they can be perceived as impersonal and often provide little added value. Take an extra minute to include some details from their message, such as wedding date, style, or venue, or add a personal comment. This small effort makes a human connection and helps you stand out in their crowded inbox.

Keep it short and simple

Many couples check emails primarily on their mobile devices, and therefore short emails are more likely to get a reply. Start with a brief subject line and get to the point quickly, since lengthy emails often go unread. Avoid long paragraphs by adding line breaks and use bullet points or numbers where possible to highlight important details. Come up with a few sample responses to keep on hand so you can quickly add in a bit of custom information based on the inquiry and hit ‘send.’

Answer any questions they asked

Many professionals make the mistake of not responding to directly asked questions, which can frustrate couples because they’re often reaching out to a number of professionals and may have specific questions or criteria they need to know to move forward. You can prepare ahead of time by coming up with a list of answers to common questions such as price ranges, packages, and availability – but be sure to address any specific questions they asked in your initial reply. These answers are important in determining if you are a good match – and will ultimately save you time!

Use their preferred contact method

Our research shows that 48% of couples express frustration when a vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type. With literally thousands of methods of communication available – from Messages, to Live Chat, to email and phone calls – it’s difficult to know the best way to get in touch with a couple. At the end of the day, customer convenience is the motto to live by. Follow their lead by using their preferred communication type. If you’re making contact first, email is typically your safest bet, as most couples prefer email over all other communication methods.

As leads start to hit your inbox for the upcoming wedding season, keep these simple tips in mind to promptly and properly reply to leads and create strong connections with potential clients.

» 5 Questions Couples Should Ask Wedding Professionals (But Don’t)

As the wedding professional, each time you meet with a new couple, you’re the expert. Chances are, they haven’t hosted a wedding before, and their level of expertise with pulling off an event of this size extends only to being a member of someone else’s wedding party. With this in mind, your potential clients’ questions will likely be most focused on the aesthetics of bringing their wedding vision to life, which is great! However, it’s your job as the expert to be sure your couples are well-informed about some of the oft-forgotten aspects of hiring you.

Here are a few questions you’ll want to be sure to answer, even if your client doesn’t know or doesn’t remember to ask.

Can you describe your style?/Can I see some of your work?

This one is a bit tricky, as most likely your potential client has seen photos of your weddings on WeddingWire and may have even popped over to your Instagram profile to check out more of your aesthetic. Even with that being the case, you want to take the opportunity to describe and show your style, why you approach your work the way you do and how you help couples visions come to life. This is also an opportunity for you to tailor your portfolio to your couple. For example, if you know they’re planning a rustic wedding, pull out some examples of rustic weddings you’ve done in the past. If you know they’re going for a modern, trendy wedding look, show that you’ve created those kinds of weddings as well.

Do you have a list of preferred vendors?

Unless you’re a wedding venue, chances are you don’t have hard-and-fast lists of wedding professionals with which you strongly prefer to work. Still, if you’re a photographer who has done a dozen weddings with a great videographer, it’s worth mentioning. If you’re a wedding planner who has a couple of florists who seamlessly pull your vision to life, let your potential client know. One of the most difficult aspects of wedding planning can be sourcing a team of wedding professionals, so helping your clients by recommending great pros who work well with each other is worthwhile. You’ll need to bring this up, as your potential client may not be aware that wedding pros frequently work together.

What other fees am I expected to cover?

Most likely, your potential client is looking at the “base” price to determine how your services will fit into their wedding budget, but there might be other, smaller fees that they should be aware of. These are highly dependent on the service category, but could include overtime fees, setup and/or delivery fees, breakdown fees and any number of practical costs for your additional services, time or equipment. Once your client has chosen which service they’d like, be sure to mention fees that you know they’ll incur, as well as any optional fees that might come into effect (like overtime).

Can I review this contract with my parents, future-in-laws or anyone else who is paying for it?

Sometimes, the entire family will come for a venue tour or a cake tasting. Other times, only the couple or maybe even only one member of the couple will meet you for the initial visit. However, most weddings involve a whole team of people who are making decisions and fronting the costs. For this reason, it’s important to try to suss out who the important stakeholders might be for each client and try to be on the up-and-up with those people as well. So, if you know your couple’s flowers are being paid for by a groom’s mother, be sure she’s involved before the contract is signed. Not only will this likely make the wedding planning process easier for your clients, but you’ll be working toward a more satisfied client once the service is complete.

Who will be my 24/7 contact person?

If you’re a one-person business, this is an easy thing to mention to your new clients. If you’re a larger business with a separate team to handle sales and events, this is trickier. No matter the structure of your business, you want to be sure your client knows who will be their point person throughout the planning along with who will be the point person for other wedding professionals they will hire in the future. As the wedding approaches, you may want to offer a few different ways to get in touch — maybe a text or email after hours — so that as things pop up, your client feels comfortable letting you know about them.