Enlisted military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot, and police officer top CareerCast’s list of the most stressful jobs in 2017.
No surprises here.
Event coordinators and planners, on the other hand, rank 5th on the list.
To people outside of the industry, the news may come as a shock. When your job involves gathering well-dressed folks and making spectacular gatherings happen, many think it’s all fun and glamorous. But such isn’t the case.
Successfully coordinating and planning an event doesn’t require risking life and limb. But the job requires meeting plenty of deadlines, frequent travelling, and facing stiff competition. All of which are stress factors measured in CareerCast’s study.
And when you’re chronically stressed, terrible things happen to your body.
Inflammatory chemicals and hormones cascade in the body — from adrenaline to cortisol. Meanwhile, the brain can’t restore the internal balance, damaging the immune system among many things.
So are #eventprofs doomed to lead a life of stress and compromised health?
Of course not!
Completely eliminating the headaches and pressure that comes with the job isn’t possible. But you can plan better conferences and exhibits with less stress.
This guide has five ideas and actionable tips that, not only reduces the stress of event planning but also boosts one’s performance at work. Without further ado, let’s start reading!
Use Technology When It Makes Sense
Event apps and chatbots have now replaced stacks of paper programs. Self-serve kiosks and check-in software have cut long lines at the entrance by a huge margin.
Meanwhile, virtual reality empowers attendees to experience an event from the other side of the globe — while in the comfort of their own homes. Event technology has come a long way indeed.
However, using the latest gadget or gizmo doesn’t always translate to convenience. It may even cause you unnecessary stress when approached the wrong way.
Here’s an example:
Getting an all-in-one event management software is a no-brainer. Hubilo, for example, lets you build an app and website for your event, process registrations and payments online, and automate the most mundane tasks. All from a single platform.
Ditching the event management software means you have to do all of the above manually or using multiple tools, both of which only make your job harder. So save your time and effort, and use a reliable management software.
On the other hand, you may have heard that the popular employee messaging tool Slack is slowly becoming an excellent marketing channel. You love the tool, and perhaps your target audience, too, who are young and hip professionals. But do you really want to build a channel for your event?
Using Slack or any other new platform without validation from your audience and data is asking for stress. You will have to create a profile, promote the channel, and sort out technical kinks. All the while performing the usual tasks and responsibilities already filling your plate. Uh-oh!
To wrap up:
Use technology but be discerning. Make sure the tool measurably makes your life easier — not harder — as an event planner.
- Identify your pain points. Today’s event tech range from seat-planning tools, apps that turn smartphones into mics, to chatbots and more. All of them are designed to make your life easier.But they also cost money. Instead of looking at what’s new, list your pain points instead — tasks or procedures that take up a lot of time but bring miniscule returns. Once listed, see if you can alleviate these sore spots with tech.
- Use a secure and reliable provider. Chances are, the event tech you use will need access to confidential data to do its job — like personal information of attendees, financial documents, supplier contact details, and list of speakers.Make sure the technology is reliable and secure against common cyber-attacks and exploits. Encryption, in particular, is a must-have.
- Pick a provider with a history of innovation. The tech landscape is always changing. A popular piece of hardware or software today may become obsolete in as little as 12 months.You want a provider who keeps up with the trends and modifies their solution according to their client’s evolving needs. Otherwise, you may need to look for another provider in the near future and overhaul the back-end so you can make the switch.
If starting your day means checking your to-do list and realizing you have a dozen tasks to finish before lunch, you may have a delegation problem.
Event professionals love being in control. After all, we’re crafting experiences people will talk about days, weeks, or even months after the curtains close. The better grip we have on the moving parts of an event, the higher the likelihood of success.
However, nobody can do everything on their own.
Sure, you may be capable of completing every item on your to-do list. But they all take time. The longer the list grows (and it will), the less time you’ll have to catch your breath and rest. And when you’re constantly overloaded with work, occupational stress is sure to follow.
So delegate! Your health will thank you for it, while your staff members will appreciate the trust you vest in them.
And as a bonus:
You free up valuable time, which you can spend on building relationships with sponsors and interacting with attendees.
Start with vendor communication and customer service. Tasks under these categories take skill and finesse, of course. But from a technical standpoint, knowing or having access to the details of the event — which your team does — is enough.
- Prioritize tasks before delegating. Not all tasks are created equal. Some require nothing less than your full attention, while others may be passed onto a responsible co-worker.To find out what tasks to prioritize and what to delegate, use the Eisenhower Matrix. Entrust “urgent but less important” work to your staff.
- Always include instructions. The steps involved may seem obvious to you. But remember, you’ve done the same task many times and have mastered the steps like the back of your hand.A teammate taking on the job for the first time is starting from scratch. So lay down the steps, mention specific preferences, and add strict deadlines if necessary.
- Trust but verify progress. Micromanagement is one of the worst things you can do to your event team. It leads to loss of trust and a lot of stress for the micromanager and the micromanaged.Instead, trust the staff member you assigned the task to. Give them autonomy to execute the work the way they see fit.All is well so long as the completed work passes the standards and meets the deadline. Speaking of deadlines, though, send a quick email when nearing crucial dates to make sure the job is up to scratch.
Create Routine Checklists For Tasks
You can find plenty of event planning checklists on the internet.
Those that have a dozen or so tasks to tick off for every stage of the process. These checklists act more like to-do lists, and they’re handy for getting important stuff done.
On the other hand, each of the items on the to-do list — like gathering quotes from suppliers or assessing potential venues — requires a routine or process to execute properly. For these tasks, you will need a routine checklist.
Routine checklists are not sexy.
They contain the most basic steps of a task. They’re important for completion but they’re also stupid-simple. And each time you have to perform the same task, you will have to go through the same routine checklist.
But make no mistake:
These checklists can make wonders for creativity and stress reduction.
For starters, they help prevent errors due to missing or forgetting basic steps. You spend less time fixing mistakes and more time doing work that matters.
Having a routine checklist also means you can forget about the simple stuff. You only have to review the checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything. And since your brain doesn’t have to remember the fundamentals, you can use your mental and creative powers to take on complex stuff.
And lastly, you can also pass routine checklists to staff members, making for a more effective way to delegate.
- Pick a platform or format. You can use just about anything for your event planning checklists — from post-it notes, flipcharts, to Word documents.Ideally, however, you want something cloud-based like Google Docs or Process Street so an updated list is available to everyone all the time. Whichever you choose, however, be sure to stick to it.
- Find and include the only simple yet essential stuff that’s frequently overlooked. You don’t need a checklist to list down everything. Besides, your work as an event planner requires variance in performing certain steps. You may also want to gather your team to get their input.
- Test the checklist in real-life situations and adjust. The first version of a checklist may be too long and cumbersome to be helpful. Or, perhaps one of your processes have changed. Whichever the case, stay flexible and tweak the checklist accordingly.
Build A Meditation Habit
This one’s a personal favorite, and I’m in good company it turns out!
“Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.” said Ray Dalio, billionaire and founder of Bridgewater Associates.
For Cisco Systems CTO Padmasree Warrior, meditating every night gives her brain a reboot and makes her calmer when responding to emails.
Like #eventprofs, these uber-successful people and business leaders have to live with long working hours and crisis situations. Yet the science-backed benefits of meditation helped them keep chronic stress at bay and bring out their A-game.
In an 8-week study published in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a daily meditation practice of 27 minutes rewired the brains of the participants for the better!
The meditation group attested to the stress-relieving effect of the practice, which correlates to the decrease of gray matter in the amygdala. Moreover, the researchers also saw a density increase in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning and memory.
Countless other bigger studies have echoed the findings above — that meditation not only relaxes and relieves stress but also boost one’s mental capacity. Maybe it’s time to include meditation in your event planning toolkit.
- Start small but meditate every day. You don’t have to sit for hours in silence to reap the relaxing and brain-boosting effects of meditation.A daily practice that lasts for 30 minutes is more than enough. If you find half an hour minutes a tad too long, start at 15 minutes and work your way up.
- Don’t stress about it. Focusing on your breath (or whatever your object of meditation) will feel near-impossible at first, with your mind wandering like a monkey.You may feel like you’re doing things wrong. But chill out! Simply accept that a rambling mind is normal and bring your attention back to the object. With practice, you will build up your capacity for focus.
- Use guided meditation apps. Changing schedules and working hours are common for event planners and coordinators. As such, you may find that riding the subway or waiting at the bus station is your only free time.
Noise can become a problem, but a pair of noise-cancelling headphones and a guided meditation app solves the issue.
Take Breaks And Disconnect
You’re in the groove!
You’re cruising through tasks and items on your to-do list. Excellent ideas are flowing, and you feel amazing. But an hour later, your focus falters. You can’t make progress and now you’re irritable.
What going on!?
Fatigue happened. You need a break, and you need it frequently.
With so much to do with the limited time you have, taking a break may seem like a luxury you can’t afford. But overwhelming evidence from science says you should.
From sharper attention to increased work performance, the benefits of taking frequent breaks are immense. Even something as simple as looking at nature for less than a minute can reboot one’s brain.
When you take a break, however, make sure it’s authentic. Not all breaks are created equal. Venting about a problem or checking social media, for example, even increases fatigue. Instead, you want to disconnect from technology and psychologically detach from work.
Disengaging from work thoughts allows the mind and body to reduce levels of fatigue and recover. And since your mind is not occupied with work stuff, you have room for positive thoughts and emotions, which increase blood flow to areas of the brain associated with focus.
- Use an ergonomic reminder. Event professionals can lose their sense of time when immersed at work.
With intense focus on the task, you may forget to take a breather and not even notice the drop in performance and mental sharpness. Fortunately, free tools like EVO and Big Stretch Reminder can give you a nudge.
- Get moving and walk outside. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for many reasons.
It promotes relaxation and blood circulation — minus the pressure on the joints and a thudding chest. All the better if you walk along green spaces as doing so can put your brain in a meditative state.
- Or better yet, walk with a colleague. Positive relationships can help relieve stress. And in a research by Gallup, strong social ties at work also boost productivity, make co-workers more passionate about their job, and improve retention. And isn’t that what you want for your event team?