Dilemmas of inviting a Chief Guest

Inviting and managing a Chief Guest is the most tricky aspect of any event. While organising any important function or event, we tend to think of a dignitary who can be invited as the chief guest. If the selection has to be made by vote, divide among members further delays the decision. Everyone tries to push the name of their known dignitary. Therefore, understandably, the name that is finalised for being the chief guest is not well received by everyone. Yet, it has to go ahead because majority voted for her/him. However, if the decision has to be taken by the head of the organisation, then at least choice becomes easier. Others have to follow the decision and the chief guest can be accordingly invited.

After the chief guest is selected, there starts the process of matching diary of the chief guest with the proposed event. Occassionally, the chief guest gives date so late that you cannot go ahead with the event as scheduled, otherwise running a risk of losing important audience because of the short notice. If you request change of date from the chief guest, again it goes into toss. Anyway, when the date is finalised, the running order of the event becomes another tricky issue. Who will speak first? When the chief guest will deliver his/her remarks? If there comes confirmation from any other important dignitary, you have to add her/him as guest of honour. Again the same issue of protocol, who speaks first and how long? If there are pre-decided topics, the allocation of topic also creates headache.

Making of invitations, use of salutations and photograph of chief guest as well as the guest of honour are bigger challenges. After all these formalities are finalised, you wait for the day of event, praying that everything will go fine. Who will escort the chief guest, who will welcome and present the bouquet of flowers etc are other issues that need to be finalised in very sensitive way.

Sometimes on the day of the event, the chief guest doesn’t turn up, or s/he comes late or wants to go earlier. You have to, in all these cases, make adjustments in the event. Let’s say the chief guest is available as per schedule, the event starts on time, but then he might speak longer than decided, or make some comments which are not favourable to your organisation, it becomes another problem. How do you make sure there is nothing which makes your chief guest unhappy? Any other speaker taking longer time or making some comment that doesn’t go well with the chief guest.

At last, what about gift or memento to the chief guest? What would s/he like? Can it be handicraft, or something that is costly? Will s/he accept it or reject? Can it be handed over during the event or has to be given in private? All such dilemmas have to be resolved much in advance by getting information about the nature of the person and past practices. Better to follow what has been acceptable by him/her in the past.

Finally, while doing post event publicity, tweet and social media handle of the chief guest must be tagged and the name must be spelt correctly. If the organisation makes mistake in writing the name of the chief guest, it is a sure shot recipe of turning her/him away from your organisation forever.

Trying to recover your sunken cost by spending more?

Have you ever spent more money trying to get the worth out of already sunken costs? Sometimes we keep investing more to keep an investment afloat. Constantly pumping money into a loss-making company to keep it running is such an example.

Many times we incur a sunk cost, and to justify it, we add a future cost to it. Take an example of a movie ticket you have purchased. You go for it. The movie turns out to be a disaster. Yet you sit through it because you have paid for the ticket. You justify wasting time on a movie that you are not enjoying even a bit because you have already wasted an amount on the ticket.

Another example can be a cricket match you might have bought a ticket for. On the day of the match, it rains. You are sure the match will be interrupted, yet you drive an hour to the stadium to watch it because a ticket has been bought. The pain of losing the money paid for the ticket is more than the trouble taken to drive to the match and watch the rain-interrupted match. Why? You believe in this way you have used at least part of the ticket’s worth.

This rationale prompts us to take an action which we know is not worth the effort, but based on the past cost or efforts invested in something, we add more to them, to take as much benefit out of it as we can. This is not the way an economist would think. We know it. But it is a psychological trait to disassociate ourselves from the pain of loss. It prevents us from thinking logically. This phenomenon was nicely explained by Richard Nisbett in his Op-Ed titled ‘Do you think like an economist? published in Los Angeles Times in 2015.

People spend more money on repairing a faulty machine they have bought by mistake. Since not repairing the machine would be a complete waste of invested money, so they think it is wise to add some money and get whatever best they could out of it.

To have a logical approach, Nisbett says, we need to distinguish between the past cost and the future cost. The past cost is already sunk, but if it’s not really worth it, you can save the future cost. Most of the time, the future cost is based on the emotional decision, to make value out of the past cost. This is an avoidable loss. In absence of such a logical approach, most people end up making a double loss – of the past and that of the future. If one learns to objectively distinguish between the two, at least one cost can be saved. So, next time, dare skip the movie that you are not enjoying, stay home instead of going to the rain-interrupted match or discard the faulty machine demanding a huge cost of repair.