Everything I Learned About Event Management from House of Cards
The Underwoods. Teaching you clever business tactics one Netflix binge at a time.
We’ve now had three seasons of the Golden Globe winning drama, House of Cards. If you haven’t watched it yet it’s probably time to sit down in front of the TV for a few days. Season four is just on the horizon, so we thought it would be a good time to reflect on just what Frank and Claire Underwood have taught us about business practices in the cutthroat world of White House politics.
Warning: spoilers ahead!
Understand what people want – and use it to your advantage
In Season 2, Frank Underwood helped Jackie Sharp achieve exactly what she wanted. Jackie was ready to rise in Democrat ranks. Frank noticed this and extended an olive branch – the opportunity to take his place as house whip. However, Frank never offers a helping hand unless it helps him too, and it was not without cost to Jackie.
If you want other people to do something for you, examine their primary motives – be it personal or professional. If you can give them what they want, they are far more likely to help you out too.
A number-two you can always rely on is worth their weight in gold
Don’t we all wish we had someone like Doug? From cleaning up potential prostitute scandals, to flying to Beijing to visit Feng, to playing Heather Dunbar like a fiddle, there’s no end to what Doug wouldn’t do for Frank. Although it’s downright creepy at times, he is dedicated to ensuring Frank’s light continues to shine.
Find someone who can help you be more successful, focused and organized. Once you find them, keep them around – whatever you do. If this person doesn’t yet exist in your working life, go out and find them!
Take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses
This is a running theme throughout the show. Almost every character makes opportunities out of their opponent’s misfortunes at some point. Think of the case of Gavin Orsay, the hacker who is now working for the FBI. The Feds offered him a deal: work with us or go to jail.
We don’t advocate blackmailing anyone, but you should take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses.
For example, if you see disgruntled staff at another event agency, consider taking them on board yourself. With an inside view into your opponent’s operations, you may be able to develop strategies to trump them in competition. Their loss is your gain.
Have outlets for your stress
Whether it’s sweating it out on the rowing machine, playing video games, going for a run or smoking a cigarette, the Underwoods always have an outlet for stress. They keep their cool in meetings and in situations where things don’t go their way. This is because they deal with stress in other ways.
If you’re finding yourself stressed in the lead up to an event, or at any time, the main goal is to stay calm. Each new day brings a new outlook. Try out stress-reducing activities in your evenings like exercise, meditation, massage, or games. Taking your mind off work will leave you feeling refreshed, and give you a better insight into how to handle your problems.
What did Frank do when the Democrats wouldn’t back him in a presidential run? He didn’t give up, that’s for sure. He convinced Jackie Sharp to run as a Presidential candidate. This split the vote with Heather Dunbar and drew fire away from Frank. He cleverly worked out a different way to get exactly what he wanted – and without compromise.
If you run into obstacles, don’t give up. Look at the situation from a different perspective, seek input from others and think of alternative solutions. For example, if your favourite lighting technician says she can’t work on your event because she’s busy, think about negotiating a deal with the company she’s booked with. For example, they help you by releasing her to work and you give them some free advertising, a portion of your mailing list, etc. You can also provide them with an alternative technician for the night to tide them over.
There is always another way to get what you want.
Business is a cutthroat affair, and event promotion is the same way. There will be times when you need to use someone else’s misfortune against them. You might need to rely on a solid number-two who’s willing to do some dirty work for you. You should give people what they want, and get what you want in return. And you definitely need to leave your stress at home.
While Frank and Claire might not be citizens of the year, they know how to win. Follow their lead and you will too.