Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Stress and the Event Planner

If you have been in the event business any length of time, you have come to realize that it is highly stressful: long days, evenings away from families, short lead times, grumpy clients, incompetent suppliers. It will ever be thus. How, then, do you live with this stress without physical or emotional problems? Over the years, I have acquired my own set of favourite methods or activities. Maybe the following will help you as they did me:

1. At one conference where I was speaking, an audience member asked me how I lived with the stress. My answer - and right at the top of my list - was that I always planned my work week around my fitness activities. In other words, physical fitness always came first for me. I literally put my daily workout into my day planner and that time was sacred. If someone asked me to attend a meeting at that time, I would say I was already committed. To me it was absolutely necessary to have that 1 1/2 to 2-hour period each day when I could just let my body unwind. And you know what? I never lost a client or had anyone complain.

2. Treat your body like a holy grail, not a disposable paper cup. This means more than just the daily workouts. It means eating and sleeping right. It has been proven, for example, that getting a good night's rest rather than pulling an all-nighter to study for exams is more successful for college students. The same goes for event planners. Resist the temptation to work to excess. Opt instead for a proper night's sleep. On the nutrition front, skip the temptation to eat fast-food when in a hurry or on the job. Instead, opt for bringing your own food from home, good energy food like fresh apples, dried prunes/dates/apricots, healthy sandwiches. Skip the high calorie soft drinks and opt for water instead. Well, OK, the occasional coffee did indeed keep me going in rough times, but I still tried to eat well.

3. Master technology; don't let technology master you. Although I realize how important cell phones are, I strongly suggest minimizing their use on the job (i.e. while at an event). This can be highly stressful. I have found that they seem to now be used often as an excuse for lack of planning. Try to have everything - and I mean everything - perfectly organized before beginning event setup. Don't arrive at a venue still wondering what time supplers will arrive or if they will arrive with the right equipment. That should all have been sorted out long before the day. For sure, a cell phone is great for onsite emergencies: someone is lost or delayed by traffic, but mostly, I firmly believe just about everything can be done beforehand. Likewise, don't use the phone as an excuse to multi-task and work on other events while you are onsite. Keep your focus and worry about those at another time. You don't need extraneous stress during an event.

4. Plan to take at least one good vacation every year - without your cell phone or laptop. Yes, it can be done. I should know. When I married my wife many years ago, we agreed that we would take an annual holiday - just the two of us, no kids - for at least a week or two. We have stuck to that. I never took a phone or computer with me on those holidays and never lost a client or had an insurmountable problem. It really is amazing what your staff can do if given the right responsibility and authority.

I could go on with other tips, but these have served me well. Yes, things were still stressful but not so bad that there was no escape.


  1. Good advice for life not just stress!

  2. Stress is, more often than not, simply a symptom of letting work take over life. So many of us seem to live under the assumption that we need to work ourselves to death in order to prove our value. As you have so clearly illustrated in this post, if one maintains personal boundaries, a high-energy job can be accomplished without wear-and-tear on the body and soul.

  3. great advice. The part about leaving the cellphone and computer at home is a tough one. The reason being is for many it is our way of feeling connected, if we don't have a significant other. I am traveling to south america in a few months and I plan to bring both but for pics to send back to friends :-)

  4. Thank you for the comments Serenity and Chad. I must admit that now I do travel with a cell phone but ONLY to use in the countries I visit as so many of them have better cell service than land line service. Also it has saved my bacon a few times in making local arrangements. Re the laptop, there are many excellent multimedia storage devices now that can store photos and send e-mail; much smaller than even a netbook. I am also an amateur photographer and use a small Canon point-and-shoot. I download my photos every day to the multimedia device.