Recently engaged, I have been setting out with my fiance to determine a solid venue for the BIG DAY. Like a good project manager, I had us first determined our deliverables, budget, and task list. I know the difficulty of venue selection. Some places require you use their in-house catering. Some have a minimum drink order. Heck, some have very specific requirements for setup, i.e. “the dj has to go in this one spot”. In any case, we quickly learned who we were going to work with was almost as important as getting the venue we wanted.
I’ll spare you all the details of the places we didn’t choose and focus on the final 2.
The first, named The Garden, is a venue located within a forest complete with trimmed hedges, flowers, and even an active koi pond. Elegant, stylish, and extremely well put together, The Garden had all their ducks in a row including a lawyer written contract and an itemized list of amenities. The Garden provided a fairytale wedding straight out of the bridal magazine without the need to think too hard on missing a detail. You know that having a wedding here would dazzle any guest and provide immaculate pictures of the day that would hang proudly on your walls for years to come.
The Second, aptly named The House, is an old farmhouse turned AirBnB that is at least a century old and has outlived any barn or silo that may have stood adjacent in the past. The vintage masterpiece is a testament to the passionate enginuity of the builders. Everything in and around the structure breathes a deep aged sigh of antiquated charm only found in a Faulkner novel. You couldn’t help but feel that you were visiting your Grandparents ol’ farm with the exception to smell fresh baked cookies upon entering.
Note: My future mother-in-law (MIL) was present at both.
The Small Comments Matter
The interactions between the two were identical. Both followed the same process:
- Exchange introductions / Pleasantries
- Ask preliminary questions
- Walkthrough Arbor / Alter
- Dancefloor / Reception
- Bathrooms, Ammdenties, Parking
- Bridal suite / Prep-rooms
- Final Questions
- Closing Pleasantries
During #1 at The House the owner thought I looked like someone they knew. This lead to several minutes with the MIL and the owner trying to figure out if they knew one another. Although the attempt at connection failed, it made the rest of the process easier as everyone tried their best to be warm and friendly. #1 at the Garden was much different. She asked about a family event that happened the day before, but directed all of her attention to my fiance ignoring both MIL and myself. The pleasantry felt forced and she missed an opportunity to connect with all participants.
Items 2-6 followed suit. At The House, we were met with options, “You can make this area the dance floor and this area the reception or we can switch them. You can use this or that or both. Whatever you’re comfortable with”. Though it felt scattered, it never felt restricted.
The Garden was the opposite. “This is the spot the DJ goes. The food is setup here. If you go over in time, we charge you the full hour at $200. Absolutely no sound past 10pm and everyone must be off the property by 11.” Though we were glad everything was structured so well, it felt like we were getting lectured for transgressions we never intended on committing (i.e. we’re usually in bed by 10). She was clearly prepared for an argument.
The finish was where we found the most differences.
The owner of The House asked us both, “what do you do for a living?”. The Fiance responded with “final year of residency”, but was followed up with questions about her journey and future expectations. I responded with “Project manager at a blog publishing company” and was met with several clarifying questions on what my job actually means. (I know, I know, not everyone knows what PM is or even does and I wasn’t going to explain online SaaS solutions, but the attempt was nice anyway).
The owner of The Garden first asked the fiance “What do you do?” and likewise received the response, “final year of residency”. The owner asked “What specialty?”. Again a simple answer of “Family Medicine”. Then the owner didn’t respond, looked at me, and asked, “And how about you?”. I responded “I’m a Project Manager at a company that builds blogs mainly for lawyers” (Please forgive me. I’m still working on explaining what it is I do). The owner stared at me for a moment then asked, “do you have any final questions?”. It felt as though she were asking us “do you make enough money?”. The transition was just as cold as it was forced.
Quick Connection to PM Skillset
At LexBlog, I’ve become a part of client facing Kickoff calls, Strategy calls, Design calls, Training, and random client need calls. I’ve been developing the process for months making sure clients know what steps are next and improving on our interactions.
There are always pleasantries.
There’s always someone asking personal questions. There’s always an attempt at making a connection or finding some commonality at the beginning/end. I’ve learned not to ask a question unless I have a relevant follow-up. At the very least I make a positive comment or comment of my level of interest. example: “oh, that’s interesting”, or “Wow, I had no idea”, or “that sounds neat”. Not responding at all or switching topics quickly comes across as cold (or probing).
As well, I’ve learned to avoid yes/no questions directed at only one person in a group. The Garden owner failed to acknowledge MIL or my involvement when she asked the fiance, “Was the niece’s birthday party enjoyable?”. Sure, the fiance’s mouth said, “yes”, but her eyes said, “it was a 1 year old’s birthday, what more do you want to know? You know they were there too right?”. The fiance felt singled out and the rest of us felt excluded.
Sure, at LexBlog we’re improving not only the blog launch experience, but improving the one thing we promote more than anything else: a human connection.
I can sometimes be “all business” looking to get a blog or portal up and running ASAP, but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the human factor. If clients don’t feel comfortable enough to come to me with their problems, they will find someone else.
If you were still wondering which venue we chose, we selected The House for next September. Yes, how the owner came across was a factor. It wasn’t the main one, but it was a consideration.
I really hope you found something to add to your everyday rhetoric repertoire. Being a PM has a laundry list of soft skills that need to be just as developed as your technical skills, but I’m learning that those all come with time.
Thank you MIL for joining the Fiance and I this last weekend. Thank you to all the venues that showed us around and quickly answered questions. Most importantly, thank you all for reading my posts.