Don’t get stressed with your event, get even.
A recent survey by Q Hotels highlighted the fact that more than 70 per cent of event organisers lose at least two hours sleep the night before organising an important event. More than a quarter reported that they feel anxious or very anxious before an event. 98 per cent say that they need time for their body to recover after an event due to all the pressures exerted by the constant, do-it-now demands of professional event management.
What can you do to reduce stress, if you have an event to run?
Do a list
A tried and tested technique for reducing stress is to write down your worries. In professional terms this means doing a working schedule which covers all elements of the event. By working through a timeline on a Google doc or similar it forces you to think through all the worry ‘pinch-points’. As we all know, once you write it down, that difficult thing becomes just a little bit more manageable.
Agree a budget
It may seem obvious but getting agreement to the budget has a major impact on stress levels. There is nothing worse than planning an activity without having approval to go ahead. Although professional policy and strategy makers often find themselves doing detailed plans which they know will never happen, it is hard to be committed to an event without knowing if it is going ahead. From suppliers to venues to speakers, nothing can happen without the agreement to spend a budget. With an agreed budget, everything else begins to fall into shape.
A common cause of ‘performance anxiety’ is having too many options and being unsure of what to tackle first. In event management there’s no event until you have secured a venue. So venue search and contracting have to be your first priorities. The next step could well be deciding on a theme and content. Once the venue and the theme/content are decided, you should be well on your way to being able to write a comprehensive plan.
Craft the programme
An event is like a conversation. There are introductions, small talk, raising certain issues, having a dialogue, learning from others and saying goodbye in a better frame of mind than when you started. So, stress levels can be reduced by organising the speakers and topics into a logical timeline which follows the rules of conversation. Once the speakers can follow the logic of ‘the story’ there is less chopping and changing about who says what and when. Don’t forget to have highs, perhaps before lunch and at the end of the day in terms of issues or new announcements. This sends delegates out of the room with a positive topic to discuss rather than a bit of admin or finance, shoe-horned into the end of another, unrelated session. No-one wants to be talking about losses over their lasagne.
Nail down the database
‘You’re not on the list’ is possibly one of the most anxious moments for any delegate or indeed the event organizer. Time spent getting the invitee database in order and collecting detailed information about delegates is time well spent. It avoids all the potential causes of stress during an event which tend to hold up activities and make guests question the integrity of the organization behind the event, Even small items such as being aware a VIP delegate is known as Chuck, even though his registered name is Charles, can make a big difference to the smooth running of an event. If the CEO has a common surname, just triple check that she has not been confused with a junior salesman and been allocated the wrong room!
Plan for anomalies
However well your planning has gone, there will be situations where anomalies will crop up that require manual, experienced intervention. Someone may have a passport that has run out or is ill or simply goes missing. Part of a good event plan will be to have experienced staffers who may well have come across these issues before and should be able to deal with problems, one on one, without detriment to the whole event. Having access to local suppliers who can take the logistical strain and get through local bureaucracy quickly is a great benefit. When a delegate is arrested by the police, for example, you would be surprised how much time and resource could be tied up dealing with it. Meanwhile, you have 500 other, normal delegates to sort out.
Nothing causes more stress for the organizer than costs spiralling out of control. Despite the best-laid plans when senior executives or VIP guests start spending the budget on items which were not agreed, things can quickly get out of hand. A sign-off system is essential for out-of-budget expenses so that when you get back to base you can already flag up extra costs, rather than it come out at the event debrief, when the party bubbles have all been popped. Simply adding a bottle of champagne for say 100 people ‘to truly celebrate a great year’ when the budget said house wine could add more than £5,000 plus taxes/service.
Keep calm and call FMI
No successful event has ever run precisely to budget or time. So you need to let the instinct to control all human life have a loose rein. The trick is to do your lists, plan carefully and have on site contingencies to deal with the unexpected.
Alternatively, you can get someone else to do it on your behalf. Preferably someone who has done it before. Preferably someone who does ‘calm’ for a living. Most organizers are in marketing or HR and have a whole host of other things to do than event management.
So if in doubt, get a professional in to take the strain and reduce your stress, so you can keep calm and carry on.