Throwing an event takes a lot of careful planning, coordination, and multitasking. In other words, event management can be incredibly stressful. For an experienced event professional, this should come as no surprise, but for folks who don’t often throw events, the amount of pressure and stress one experiences can come as a surprise. Event management is often cited as one of the most stressful jobs out there. In fact, a recent Career Cast study revealed that event coordinators have the 8th most stressful job overall. When enlisted soldiers, firefighters, military generals, air pilots, and police officers are some of the only jobs that outrank yours in terms of stress, then you know you’re in for some high pressure situations.
For folks that are new to event planning, there are some tricks to manage stress and even ways to avoid it completely. I’ve had the opportunity to chat with several accomplished Eventjoy users, and they’ve offered their wisdom on practices they follow to throw a successful and stress-free event.
Make Enough Time to Prepare - If you haven’t picked the event’s date, consider pushing it back an extra week or two to give yourself more time to prepare. Devoting extra time at the preliminary planning stage helps me review all of my event’s necessary components in ways that I probably wouldn’t if I were more pressed for time. I usually take multiple trips to the venue to get really acquainted with it, get a fresh pair of eyes on my work from a colleague to uncover errors I’ve overlooked, and give myself time to review the resources I already have. David Spinks, CEO of CMX Summit, recently started running very large conferences, and let me know his thoughts on stress at the beginning stages of an event:
“There is always stress around. Whether it’s selling tickets or making sure the slides work or if the coffee is going to be ready, we’ve had every issue under the sun and it’s always a challenge. I’ve never run events until recently with CMX so it has been a learning experience as we go and I think we get a little bit smarter and more prepared and a little bit more aware of. We’ve been planning and preparing logistics much further in advance to limit the amount of surprises and provide a bit more flexibility. That extra time has been super helpful.”
Learn to Love Your Checklists – There are A LOT of different components that make up an event: venue, catering, guest lists, staffing, entertainment, security, etc. If you’re running an event for the first time, juggling all of these different parts can be challenging. Visualizing all of your tasks on a checklist can be incredibly helpful. When I first started running events, I’d have Post-Its all over my bedroom, my car, and my office. Needless to say that didn’t work out well. I’ve since discovered online task managers like Basecamp can be way more organized. Natasha Steer, Education and Community Development Coordinator for the Nucleus Arts Centre, puts on multiple workshops at the same time, so managing all of her events at once entails remembering a lot of small projects:
I have been using an application called ToDoist – as I find the biggest thing that stresses me out is the possibility of forgetting to do something. The app helps me quickly make a note of things I have to do and sends me reminders.
Surround Yourself with Good People – No event organizer should have to do this alone, and having the support of a strong team can really get you through stressful times. I always ask how people on my team like to handle stressful situations at the beginning of planning an event . Knowing everyone’s strengths and weaknesses in stressful situations can ultimately help avoid larger problems for the event’s execution. It’s even more helpful if your team is knowledgeable about the kind of event that you’re throwing. Stef Tousignant throws parenting expos throughout the country, so she makes sure that her team has a background in her field. This lets her relax during the event for a number of reasons:
I know that I need a team of people that can not only handle an event but also speak comfortably and offer knowledge to parents and caregivers as well as children. Having a team that understands kids saves me the time of having to train my staff in caregiving and I don’t have to stress out if parents ask my team any questions.
Prepare a Defense System - The most stressful part of coordinating an event is when it’s time for the actual event itself. That’s why it’s beneficial to have an emergency system set up for anything that may pop up, even if you can’t be around. Inbar Dankner, the Executive Director and Co-Founder for Raising the Bar, runs up to 50 events at the same time, so she can’t be everywhere to help solve problems. Rather than let the stress of running so many events get to her, she put together an actual war-room to help:
“Pre production is less stressful, because we make enough time to prepare, but the production itself is stressful. No matter what you do, there will always be unexpected things that happen, no matter how planned or organized you are. You just have to work under pressure, and that’s why we have built a war room – one or two people that manages everything from one location. So we know if one of our producers is calling us from a location saying something is not working, the war room will contact nearby area managers and assist. So have your support covered.”
Keep Everyone Informed – If you don’t have it already automated, send out an email to all of your attendees about 24 hours before the event starts. It’s your best chance to reach everyone in case there has been any last minute changes to your event. Sending out a message too far in advance wont be as effective, and sending it the day of won’t give everyone a chance to read it in time. A day is usually enough time to let everyone get the information, saving you from the stress of having to answer to a bunch of uninformed attendees.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff - As prepared as you are, there are bound to be a few small bumps in the road. It’s going to happen, but don’t let any of the minor hiccups bog you down. Craig Jordan of the Sales Hacker Series put it best:
“By accepting the fact that things can and will go wrong is just a part of throwing an event. Not all of your events will sell out. Speakers sometimes cancel last minute. Vendors sometimes mess up your order. But most mistakes are fixable – you just need to keep a level head and move on. It is very rare that something happens where your audience will throw tomatoes at you for messing something up.”
Take Time to Relax - This is probably the most challenging to remember when I’m planning an event, but it provides the most noticeable rewards. Stress has way more negative effects on your health and wellness than you may realize. If your body and mind can’t operate well, then chances are your efforts towards your event will suffer. Remember, breaks and full nights of sleep are important, so it’s ok to say ‘NO’ to pushing yourself harder.
When the moment arrives where I can’t look at my computer screen or guest list without my eyes glazing over, I know it’s time to take a step back. I’m a personal fan of mini breaks to take deep breaths, listen to music, or completely zone out for two minutes. I can’t tell you how many stressful event situations were solved by taking my brain to the ocean.
Taking the above steps into consideration will help set yourself up for a much smoother and less stressful event. If you have any other tips or recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments below!