"Don't try to win over the haters, you are not the jackass whisperer"
Quote captured by @MikeTibbles by @BreneBrown
I attempted to remain calm. I let her blow off steam, and vent. I expressed empathy for her frustration, but was careful to not apologize. I took a few breaths and explained why we were discouraging use of the materials. We had a mandate to plan a sustainable event from the host. We had learned foam-based plastics were non-recyclable in the majority of cities this event visited. This was contributing to waste, which the event was also being charged for. In addition, we were trying to respond to requests from exhibitors about simple steps they could take to voluntarily align with the sustainable mandate of the tradeshow.
Needless to say, she was having none of it. She was annoyed. Highly annoyed. And she was calling the Director of Sponsorship and Exhibits.
I thought I'd lost a major sponsorship. My client was going to be livid. I could kiss goodbye to my contract with them.
To my extreme relief my client stood behind me. They upheld inclusion of the voluntary guideline to reduce and eliminate foam-based plastic. Not only that, but a few years later the event shifted to make the guidelines mandatory for all exhibitors.
I realize now there was nothing I could have done to change the sponsor's mind, unless I was prepared to sacrifice something important: the responsibility I'd been given to ensure integrity in the guidelines we were creating. Definitely a risky choice in this situation that could have easily backfired. The experience highlighted for me the critical importance of so many things:
- Ensuring a clear mandate and support for event sustainability from the host up front.
- Anticipating issues that might raise the ire of certain event stakeholders and being prepared about how to respond.
- Remaining focused and calm when someone challenges your decisions and actions.
- Avoiding silencing others while ensuring respectful communication.
- Affirming your position, but not arguing it.
- Circling back to sources to be open to the possibility you might be wrong.