Maria, my lovely colleague, gave me the brief for this post as she thinks that I seem very calm when planning events, at least from the outside! On the whole I don’t allow events to stress me like they used to. I do think some of that is down to experience, but more of it is down to conscious changes to my outlook when it comes to events.
I wanted to share some insights from my journey towards minimising stress with you here in the hope they might help you identify and fix what bums you out when you plan your own events.
I Used to Work All Day
“Will anyone turn up?” My throat was so dry, it had nearly glued shut. This was at my first big event.
“Of course they will!”
“What’s the worst thing one of your event organiser’s ever did?” My heart was racing, and anxiety was chasing it.
“Organise an event and then not turn up.”
“Yup, we never heard from her again.”
I’ve always wondered about that person. I imagine the pressure became so immense as the event approached that they could barely move, let alone pull off the production. It’s a horrible feeling, being pinned down by an invisible force.
In my early event planning days, it would not be uncommon for me to be in the office for 6am and out at 11pm.
Weekends weren’t off limits either. I obsessed over every detail, from the invite copy to finding the right lights… I once drove halfway across the country looking for what I thought would be the perfect lanterns. I kept at that pace for several years. The high of the events became addictive, and the only way to come down was by drinking too much at the after-party. Then, one day, I had no energy and felt very sad. My body forced me to stop.
The Battle of Money versus Memories
You should be allowed to create a few flops. You wouldn’t learn anything by creating something perfect every single time. That is, if it were possible. Making mistakes is the only way that you’re going to get closer to the answers.
Tito didn’t do events until I came along, and we’ve done a few forgettable ones on my watch but, each time, I get closer to making it work.
I’ve worked for companies that are very metric-driven when it comes to events. That’s fine if you have an event strategy that works, and has worked for years, but if you don’t have one then a doozy of an event causes panic.
“How much did we spend?”
“Where’s all the MQLs?”
That number-obsessed experience was very jarring for me as it took my focus away from creating something memorable that had a business benefit. I knew I was close, but they were risk averse.
The drive became very much about getting large numbers of prospects in the room, regardless of whether they were the right fit. What happened in that scenario was a pipeline of bad leads. Not exactly sustainable, much like my 17 hour work days.
What I Do Now to Prevent Event Stress
1. Trust your gut (and share what it says).
Nowadays, in case this article didn’t make it obvious, I put in a conscious effort to avoid event stress, and the bad habits I fell into in previous roles. That starts with a solid strategy.
I always put a plan (both creative and operational) together about why we should do an event. I use stats where I can. This is the foundation I iterate on. It’s also a nice backup if there is selective amnesia among your superiors. It also prevents you becoming a scapegoat.
2. Stop studying that leaf and look at the damn tree.
It’s tempting to lose yourself in lantern selection or the badge design, but there is a time and place for that. It feeds back to step one, have a good plan with a tight timeline, and don’t forget the bigger picture.
3. Find a tool that works for you.
I’ve never worked in a company that embraces so many daily productivity tools as Tito, it’s nuts! I’ve tried a few, but they feel like more work for me so I stick to pen and paper. Ain’t no shame in that.
4. Reclaim your time.
I started using Headspace about five years ago. I was prompted to use it because I felt out of control with my emotions when I was under the pressure of an upcoming event. It’s really helped me focus and stay calm. My family and friends say that it’s changed me for the better.
5. Enjoy the high.
I love the post-event buzz. Who doesn’t?! I know there will be a low there, but the meditation helps. I don’t get hung up if I have a few too many on closing night, but I make a point to take a day off later that week to go for a nice meal with a loved one.
6. Treat your body.
Events are physical so you should try to stay active. It helps my head too. I do find leading up to events I become much weaker, so I lift lighter when I hit the gym. I also get an emergence of knots in my upper back. That’s when I fit in a massage about a week out.
7. Be ready for when the proverbial hits the fan.
The only way you can prevent potential issues is to have contingency plans for things that would fall under your control. For example, a back up venue if sales go better or worse than expected. Budget for umbrellas in case the hotel provides none and you live in a rainy country!
8. Find a mentor.
I’ve a few that I can hit up if I need to sound something off. It’s really nice to have that, and if I’m honest I don’t avail of this enough. I’ll pop it on my to do list!
I’m always wary of providing my tactics because I sure as feck ain’t an oracle. A lot of the time it’s about finding the right company for your personality and vision. Other times it’s about training yourself to take a step back from the intensity of event planning. That said, I hope you’ve been able to take something away from this, and that we might potentially have brought your event stress levels down from an 11 to a 9 and a half!