Can you catch more flies with honey or vinegar?

By Jim Simon on 31/07/2017

In the world of MICE, a successful event is the outcome of dozens, sometimes thousands of decisions, interactions, problems and negotiations. When problems arise, it’s my experience that a little honey works better than a dose of vinegar.

Problems happen

Even the best of plans will be upended as “expected unexpected” challenges arise. These could be due to force majeure, incompetence, or even the intentional breaking of a contract.

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that the origin of problems will not be limited to my vendors. My team and my guests will typically cause just as many critical issues.

In only a span of hours of one of my events, I had an attendee evicted from the premises; another required in-room medical assistance; another required an ambulance; and another attempted to check into her single occupancy room with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law. Only the in-room medical assistance was unpreventable. The others were caused by inappropriate behaviour and an expensive, custom couch was potentially ruined.


“Do You Know Who I Am?”, or DYKWIA, is a common approach taken by some meeting planners. When the expected unexpected rears its ugly head, some meeting planners impose their “I am the client” position on their vendors through temper tantrums, intimidation, and unambiguous threats.

Honey first, vinegar last

When faced with problems does one gain better and faster resolutions with a little honey or a dose of vinegar?

I always seek to approach issues with a little honey. I like to think that the people I am working with are professionals and they seek the same positive outcome as I do. But, anyone with experience knows that honey isn’t guaranteed to work. Sometimes a vendor has a different perspective as to the origin of a problem as well as the appropriate resolution. In these cases, I won’t hesitate to use vinegar.

Treat people the way you want to be treated

At the outset of an event, I like to present a modest ‘thank you’ gift to my key vendors. With the gift, I provide a handwritten note that says, “Thank you in advance, for our event could not be a success without your contribution.” The gift is certainly appreciated and like most people, the recognition of a person’s contribution means as much, if not more, to them. Most people believe they are professionals, so they feel a greater sense of responsibility to help make my event a success.

When the expected unexpected challenges do arise, I do my best to remain calm, talk to my vendors in private, and treat them the way I would like to be treated. Oftentimes, they as individuals, are not even at fault. By treating them with respect I find that they will go the extra mile to find a resolution.

In my experience, vendors have a lot of latitude within their roles to go the extra mile for a client. In hotels, it can take the form of higher quality or extra servings of food; an unplanned touch of fresh flowers; and perhaps best of all, flexibility with rooms.

Inevitably, members of my group will no-show, check-in early, checkout late, or even cause damage to lobby couches!

A taste of your own medicine

If you predominantly use vinegar to hold vendors to the letter of an agreement, it would only be fair if your vendors reciprocate in kind to you and your organisation. So don’t complain when you find all manner of extraneous charges to your master bill. And don’t expect them to respect you because they really do know who you are (RDKWYA)!

Jim Simon is Senior Director of Marketing, Asia-Pacific for Silicon Valley storage firm Quantum Corporation. A permanent resident of Singapore, Simon’s extracurricular passions include aviation and orphan rabbit fostering for the House Rabbit Society of Singapore. He is co-author of the book Y’s Up! 85 Tips from the Trenches for Success in Today’s No-Guarantees Job Market.


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