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…don’t even think about being in the event industry!”
I think many of us who are either in the industry, or considering a career in it, or trying to ‘break in’ (whatever that means) have been told this, or some version of it, at some point or another. Heck, I was even told this the other day: ‘The event industry’s all about stress, you have to be able to deal with it you know…’
So I thought of putting this to the test, and seeing what this actually means. If you can’t ‘deal with stress’, is that the end of the road? And what does ‘dealing with stress’ actually mean?
Before I go any further, I want to stress (ha ha) that this isn’t an in-depth psychological analysis on stress, or an expert critique into this area. I’m looking at it in the context of event management, and my own experiences, and hopefully, once you’ve read it, you’ll have something to think about.
I know that when I get stressed during the course of managing an event, 2 things are bound to happen:
- I will make mistakes. This is because I will freeze, make jerky movements, say jerky things, and momentarily forget everything I ever knew about events.
- I will probably hurt someone’s feelings. I’ll say the wrong thing in the wrong way, and instead of gaining their support in helping out with a crisis, I will alienate them.
So a while back, I made a decision that whenever something scary happens when managing an event, my first response would be to take a deep breath, assess the situation, figure out what needs to be fixed, find out who I need to speak to etc. etc. And I have the great teams I’ve worked with in the past to thank for this.
You see, as my last post said, good enough is good enough. And as our friend William Thomson at Gallus Events pointed out in his comment – it’s only the event organiser, not the guests, who is likely to see the problems and know what went wrong that suddenly had to be fixed.
In the past, when I was wittering away about how X went wrong or I should have thought about Y or what will I do about Z, my team have assured me that it’ll work out fine. There’s always someone in the group who’s been calm enough to say ‘Look, let’s think about this. How about we do A instead?’ Maybe it’s because they weren’t in charge, so didn’t have the immediate tension of ‘Oh my God, it’s my fault if this goes wrong!’ and could think a bit more clearly. But I don’t think that’s fair – I think they were genuinely calm, rational people.
Over time, this rubbed off on me. When faced with a crisis, I think, on the whole, I’m able to take that breath and think of solutions. After all, when things go wrong – who do you look to? A panicky, scattered event manager, or someone who can be focused and delegate?
So that leads me back to the question – if you can’t ‘deal with stress’, is that it? Well, I think that’s a bit of an unfair question – I’m nowhere near perfect, and I’m sure people much more experienced than I am still have their ‘oh my God’ moments – we’re human after all! So I would say this when it comes to stress and managing events:
- No matter how well you plan, accept that a spanner in the works is bound to make you react, and maybe even panic a bit. It’s really OK.
- Ask yourself what you normally do when you get stressed about something – anything at all. Do you freeze? Do you swear and curse? Do you roll into a ball and cry?
- Now think about things you could do if you feel you’re going to react like this in an event situation. Is there someone you can call on in your team for help? Are there actions you can do? A tutor of mine had a great technique – he’d excuse himself for a bit and say ‘I just need a few minutes to think about the situation’, during which time he’d go and vent or do whatever, then go back to his team. May not always be appropriate, but buying yourself a bit of time to get some perspective can really help.
- If you think your experiences aren’t preparing you well enough to deal with stress, why not offer to spend a day or so with someone who works on something really high-profile or stressful? Just by observing how they work can teach you a lot – in fact that’s how I’ve picked many things up.
So, if you’ve done all this, and still don’t really feel comfortable in stressful situations, does that mean event management isn’t for you?
Well, I wouldn’t say so. Once you’ve worked on a few different kinds of events, with different teams, and had a chance to see the different parts everyone plays in making a great event come together, you’ll get a better understanding of what things could get stressful, and what can be done to make them less so. And who knows – after all that, you’ll find that ‘dealing with stress’ isn’t such a big deal after all!
What do you think? How do you cope with stress when running an event? What have you learnt about managing stressful events over the years?
Please leave me a comment below!