Coordinating and planning events is stressful. Event Coordination has been listed in the top 10 most stressing jobs of 2012. Here is a set of tools, techniques and resources to work more efficiently while getting the stress relief you deserve.
Ok, the research was out almost a year ago. Lots of coverage from blogs and event industry outlets. Including this blog.
In the list of the most stressful jobs of 2012, Event Coordinator was at number 6. Just so we understand each other, number 5 is Police Officer. Number 4 is Military General.
Also interesting to note how the average income is one of the lowest in the chart.
Lots of coverage, outcry and waves of tweets saying how true this is.
What about Stress Solutions?
As an event planning hacker, someone who has been searching for technology shortcuts to preform tasks faster and more effectively, I feel entitled to share the techniques, tools and tricks I've learned along the way that make my life easier.
I am no doctor, psychologist or human resource expert. Therefore take the following as notes from experience. After all, blogs are made for sharing personal experiences with the world. And this is exactly what I want to do in this article.
Use Technology, Don't Get Used by It
I love to write about the last tool out there for event professionals. I am also the strongest advocate against using it.
Unless you do not have a desperate need to use a piece of technology to solve a major problem, do not use it.
Let me give you an example. Online event registration is a no brainer. Collecting payment via bank draft and registration by fax is plain stupid. Registering attendees the old way will just cause enormous stress . This is a case of using technology wisely, save time and lessen our stress.
Another example would be to create a Twitter account for your conference. If you audience does not know what Twitter is, you are being used by technology. There is a bunch of people trying to get you in this social media revolution who do not care whether this is going to be healthy or not for you.
Embracing Twitter (or any other social tool) without audience or management validation means a lot of stress for no one but you. You'll need to read the rules, understand the lingo, try to advertise the account while performing your usual duties. Save that energy, it's not worth it.
Break Down The Event in Tasks and Write Them Down
Breaking down your event in small tasks is one of the most effective practices in reducing stress. If you try to imagine all the tasks needed to make your event happen and write them down, your stress levels will go down. Why?
First because having a whole event in your head is going to kill you. You'll be the bottleneck for all decisions, lots of people will depend on you. That does not help.
Writing things down will help to empty your head and understand how to allocate tasks. Here are 7 more reasons why you should write things down.
Use Note Taking and To-do Tools
Emptying your head is not as easy as you'd imagine. Therefore sometimes I use technology to help me doing that. Lots of planners, friends and bloggers love Evernote. It is a powerful, cross-plaform tool that helps you 'dump' what's in your brain. The picture taking tool is especially important for those who have an eidetic (photographic) memory.
I'll admit it does not work for me. It is way too much to bear for how my brain works. I prefer simple to do lists. I love Asana. It has the simplicity that works for me.
Work Through Your Tasks With a Strategy
I hate the word strategy. It forces me to stop and think, while I would like to get down to business. I am a practical person and I like to do stuff. I can't sit still without doing anything.
I also learned that doing stuff without an approach or a strategy results in poor performance and a lot of stress.
I am a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique for task management. Another interesting approach is to actually foster procrastination. This has been suggested in the book "Wait, the art and science of delay". Read more about it here.
If you feel you are not able to go through your list of tasks or feel somewhat blocked, you could try 'Naked Planning', a quite fascinating approach.
Do Not Multitask
I've covered this in the past. I actually experienced it first hand. Whenever I multitask I get less stuff done and less efficiently. Personally this is one of the biggest cause of event planning stress.
If you watch TV while answering that important email, you are not improving your health. The archetypical image of the event planner is of someone constantly doing tons of tasks at the same time. While I think this is almost inevitable during an event, I suggest you get a grip on yourself and stop multitasking in the planning stage.
Having multiple screens, devices, iPads, iPhones etc is not cool. I suggest you read this great piece of research on the topic as, again, I ain't no expert but I know where I am coming from.
Take Good Care of Yourself
I won't give health tips on this blog. Ever. Nonetheless the way you treat yourself is obviously correlated to your stress levels.
As event professionals, we tend to be completely prone to serve our guests and we often forget about us. Consensus is that exercising, eating healthy, avoiding stimulants such as coffee (I can't believe I am writing this) and alcohol decreases stress levels.
I won't cite a single source because a general search on the topic will confirm the above. It is common sense and what our parents taught us, yet one of the most frequent reasons why we end up exhausted.
Foster Collaboration in Your Team
Is there anything worse than having constant conflict in a team? Not only you have to think about the miserable budget you have, the demands of your management, the tough negotiation with suppliers, what about some good dose of drama with your colleagues?
What academic research has defined as the Cost of Conflict is an expense event professionals cannot simply afford.
The Harvard Business Review has conducted a research among an interesting sample of organizations and summoned results in an article called 8 ways to build collaborative teams (with paywall 🙁 ).
If anything else fails, become a great influencer and get people to agree. Your starting point is Robert Cialdini.
Boss, Money and Loving What You Do
These are the evergreen reasons why we feel stressed at work in general. A crazy boss and an underpaid/irrelevant role are universal causes for discontent, thus frustration.
As again I am no HR expert, I can only tell you that when I experienced one of the big 3 above I changed something. It takes guts, you'll be exposed to risk and it won't be an easy process. But it works.
Suggested reading: The 4 Hour Workweek. Somewhat cheesy and superficial but very inspirational.
Accept That Not Everything Will Go As Planned
Choosing to work with events has lots to do with being control freaks. I am speaking out of my own experience here. There is some sense of divinity in seeing a project that unfolds exactly as planned. Truth is that this is rarely the case.
All events will fail, even if in a small detail. Great event professionals embrace this concept. They infuse a sense of calmness and tranquility to those around them. The inexperienced event person freaks out when a projector is not turning on.
Having a back up plan will surely help to avoid major fallbacks, alas you can't have a back up plan for everything.
Embrace failure, it will make you stronger. Try to understand the impact of a given failure and what you need to do to avoid that in the future. Never, ever blame yourself for things not going as planned.
We all experienced some of the above stressful situations in our work life. As event professionals we have a duty to deliver great experiences to our attendees but also to preserve ourselves and take good care of us and our family.
Our stress deeply affects the way we perform. Our attendees notice it.
Never put yourself second. Use tools smartly and break a big event into little chunks, it will make things easier.
Finally, drop that phone and make that email wait for a couple of hours, go outside and take a walk. You'll feel much better.