The Magic of Under Promise and Over Deliver

Project managers have many super powers.

When it comes to event planning, we have mastered tricks such as: making things appear out of thin air, knowing our client’s needs before they know them, and adding more days to the week. Although we continue to make the impossible seem possible, even the toughest, most organized planners encounter limitations when it comes to conjuring up miracles. The good news is, project managers have uncovered the secret to never exposing their weaknesses. Think of it as a hidden reserve for your powers; a way to set yourself up to conquer even the most merciless projects.

Under Promise and Over Deliver. You may have heard this saying before, and although I’d consider it more of a mantra than a magic trick, if done right, it will most definitely make you look like an event planning wizard. Some may feel a bit reluctant to take this advice at first thinking, “Well, isn’t that kind of cheating?” My response to that is, wait until you have ten different deadlines to meet, three different clients to please, and seven vendors barking in your ear … there is no cheating when it comes to event planning.

The “Under Promise” portion of the saying is pretty self-explanatory. However, I am not suggesting that you completely undermine your abilities or set the lowest standard possible (unless you don’t want any clients). What you do want is to be sure you are setting realistic expectations from the get-go and being as straight forward (yet empathetic) as possible when discussing your client’s vision. Don’t let them believe that their next corporate event is going to involve a trip to the moon unless you’ve already reserved the rocket ship.

The real payoff comes in the “Over Deliver” stage of the trick. This is where your expertise of project management best practices come into play. Once you have set your client’s expectations of the project and taken care of the absolute requirements, it is time to show off your true abilities. Go ahead, tear open your crisp, carefully ironed business button-up and reveal the super hero suit you’ve been hiding underneath (metaphorically, please).

While I am sure at this point in your reading you’re eager to run out of your office and put your newly accepted powers to the test, here are a few “Over Deliver” methods to get you started:

  • Anticipate your client’s needs by comparing them to previously collected data. If you are working with an old client, analyze past projects you have completed with them and take note of things they did and didn’t like. If you are working with a new client, compare them to clients you’ve worked with in the past that have similar character traits. Trust your instincts, go with your gut, and you’ll be labeled a mind reader in no time.
  • Always stay organized and up-to-date with the logistics. You should be aware of even the smallest logistical detail as a project manager. Your client will wonder how you always have the answer to every question. See my blog “Project Management 101” for some processes to help you with this Herculean task.
  • Plan your deadlines ahead. As an event planner, I cannot stress this point enough. When tragedy strikes, having tasks completed in advance will give you time to react and fix the issue before anyone even knows it happened.
  • Get everything in writing. Double check your orders, appointments, and reservations and ensure that you always have proof. While this is more of a precautionary step, being able to protect yourself and the project at any point in time will let your client know that you always have their back.

As mentioned before, the Under Promise and Over Deliver methodology isn’t a scheme to make you appear more prepared than you really are, but a way to ensure that you never take on more than you know is possible while still coming out on top. Not only does this method allow you to exceed client expectations, but it also sets you up to surpass your own project goals and deliver more than you originally thought possible. As you grow as a project manager you can continue to raise the bar and take projects to the next level.


Jessica Lopez

Jessica Lopez is a recent graduate from the University of Idaho, College of Business and Economics, where she double majored in marketing and operations management. Jessica demonstrates a high level of professionalism as a project manager. She provides meaningful support in marketing communications and corporate events. Her ability to see the big picture, implement processes and procedures to streamline operations, and dive deep into the details of a project is evident in her praise-worthy event coordination and project management skills.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *