5 Tips to Lower Stress as the Event Nears
Those words are printed on the cover of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” in the Douglas Adams’ book. In the story, all sorts of possibly panic-inducing events occur to the characters who, fortunately, have the guide to remind them to remain calm.
Event planners need a “The Hitchhikers Guide” with them at all times to remind them to relax. According to a 2019 CNBC article, “event coordinator” is the sixth most stressful job in America. Being in charge of a live event is more nerve-wracking than reporting the news (in 2019!), a position in the C-suite, and driving a taxi. Most of the careers ahead of event coordinator have literal life-and-death implications, such as police officer, airline pilot, firefighter, and, the top spot, enlisted military personnel. It really says something when, to make an occupation more stressful, the threat of a burning building or gunfire is included in the job description.
The job’s placement on the top 10 list of most stressful jobs in America is likely no surprise to an event planner. A live event has so many moving parts to oversee. In the buildup to an event, it feels like there is no end to the schedules that need planning, elements that need organizing, timelines that need completing, and employees who need managing.
Still, having an engine that’s consistently revved with 100 percent stress is not a healthy way to go through life. While no one can guarantee a live event will go off without any mishaps, there are steps event planners can take to minimize complications and lower their stress level.
Secure Some “You Time” in Your Schedule
Every second of your event is carefully and meticulously scheduled, from the time the doors open to the minute they shut. It has to be this way. Otherwise, the event would be chaos.
While it’s probably not possible for your day-to-day business schedule to be equally rigid, there are a few times you should block off and be unwilling to cancel or change them: a little “you time.”
These moments when you allow yourself to take a breather are especially important in the days leading to the event when it feels like you are being pulled in hundreds of different directions all day, every day. This time can be as simple as finding a quiet place in the office and letting yourself calmly breathe and meditate or read a book. It can also be when you head to the gym to work out or to your car and stream a sitcom, play a video game, or grab a power nap.
You’re going to live nothing but this event for weeks. So, give yourself some valuable minutes to recharge.
Remember Why You Made the Budget and Stick to It
One of the biggest speedbumps that many event planners encounter is going over budget. With so many costs associated with live events, it can be easy to be blindsided by one or twelve.
So, doublecheck your budget to ensure it includes all those little (and not-so-little) things that can add up to one big overage. Some examples include expenses incurred while traveling, taxes, last-minute promotional materials, vendor charges, drayage, credit card fees, and more.
It can help put your mind to rest to allocate 10-20 percent of your event budget to an emergency expense fund. Then when the unexpected occurs, your blood pressure doesn’t need to spike because you have funds available to cover the cost. No stress.
Another common problem area for live events is a missed deadline or otherwise dropped ball. Often, the cause for these mistakes can be traced back to miscommunication or lack of communication.
Clear and consistent communication with your team, vendors, bosses, show management, and sponsors can help lower your stress level because you’ll know that everyone is on the same page. Several software solutions focus entirely on improving project management communication and coordination. Most of these solutions divide individual projects into dialogues that are archived until an administrator removes them. The benefit is that every decision is recorded and easy to find when questions arise.
Avoid Last-Minute Turmoil
Whether you are working for your company or a client, there’s a pretty decent chance that someone will ask you to make some last-minute changes. Perhaps a higher higher-up than your contact saw something they would like to be different, or the person was never quite sure about a specific element, or new information is prompting a change. Regardless of the reason, the result is always the same: stress for you.
However, you cannot let your façade crack. When a request is made, remain calm. Then begin to interrogate it. Make sure that your contact understands the ramifications of this change. It can be difficult for someone who is not deeply immersed in an event to see the intricate way that various elements fit together. Often, this realization is enough to table the change. If not, suddenly, you find yourself back in the creation phase, conceptualizing ideas and troubleshooting on the fly.
Last-minute changes are not impossible. They are, however, expensive because they need to happen quickly. And if the expense is not available, then they are done poorly. Make sure your contact understands that, as well. The rule is “fast, cheap, good: pick two.”
If you genuinely believe that the requested change will not make the event better, you need to say so and back up your beliefs with examples or reasons for the original decision. Event planners often feel pressured to accommodate the changes simply due to the considerable volume of work that’s already been accomplished. This is when your expertise as an event planner is most valuable. It’s okay to say “no” as long as you have valid reasons for your concerns. If your only complaint is that the change is difficult, that’s not a valid reason.
Listen to Your Brain and Body (They Know When You Need a Break)
The human body can only go so long on minimal sleep and a diet of energy drinks. If you don’t get enough sleep and eat properly, it will begin to affect your stress level, job performance, and personal life.
Getting a good night’s sleep or not impacts your mental sharpness. Mood, productivity, cognition, and concentration are all affected by a lack of sleep. A study determined that subjects who were limited to only 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week were more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted than when they resumed healthy sleep. Another study found that people with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 percent had a better reaction time than those who were sleep-deprived.
Similarly, food can make you either less or more susceptible to stress. Fish, avocados, and many nuts and seeds are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which has many benefits, including stress reduction. Eating plenty of fiber, found in fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains, has also been shown to reduce stress.
It is not possible to completely avoid stress while planning and managing a live event. By taking steps to minimize it, both professionally and personally, you will find that you are happier and more productive. Remember: don’t panic.