With “event coordinator” making the shortlist of “Most Stressful Jobs” year after year, there’s one New Year’s resolution every single event creator should make:
Be less stressed.
Easier said than done, though, right?
From the day your event is dreamed up to the time you lock the venue doors behind you, the work is never-ending. Your to-do list is gargantuan, you’re constantly pelted with emails, and something is always going awry. “Hectic” is practically your resting state.
The last thing you have time for is more vacation — or even more yoga — so relaxing sometimes seems hopeless. But the truth is, minimizing your event-related stress does not have to mean carving out time for wellness retreats. Instead, it means finding ways to relax into your job.
You can be focused, driven, and successful — and still be less stressed. Here’s how.
Get your docs in a row
The best defense against chaos? Organization.
In 2018, the folks at Asana planned a 24-event tour across 8 cities in just 3 months. “One of the big challenges with the sheer number of events we manage is keeping track of logistics,” says Josh Zerkel, Head of Global Community at Asana and Certified Professional Organizer®. “Even just one event has a laundry list of things to do, from securing a venue to promotion and follow up.”
To pull off two events a week — and try to stay sane — Zerkel’s team built a project in Asana for each individual event. They listed every little thing that needed to be done, and also created budget spreadsheets, detailed travel docs, and progress-tracking docs for each event.
They key to being organized is to figure out which docs and apps work for your particular process, and let go of the rest. “You want to spend your time focusing on doing great work, not on managing the tools you use,” Zerkel says. Figure out what you’re trying to solve for, and use the bare minimum number of tools to get there.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Every event creator faces the stressful moment when attendance numbers aren’t where they need to be. An incredible event won’t mean much if people don’t show up.
When your numbers — and the very fate of your event — are unpredictable, your mindset is critical. Instead of obsessing over minor details, periodically check in with your main motivation: the event experience.
Zerkel says, “I like to pass every event decision I make through ‘the Josh test.’ If I were an attendee, would I want to sit through this event? More importantly, would I love it?” If he can confidently answer “yes!” he knows he’s on the right path, and that puts his mind at ease.
But if the answer is no, that just inspires him to work harder — knowing that the ultimate payoff will be worth every minute of work. Zerkel says, “Let’s face it, in the day to day, planning events can sometimes be awesome — and sometimes be really not awesome. But meeting customers in person is one of the best parts of my job, and I’m lucky that I get to do it.”
Zerkel’s colleague Logan LeVan agrees: “When I get stressed, I remind myself of that rewarding feeling at the finish line.”
Stay calm and carry on — especially on event day
The night before your event can be restless, to say the least. You’ve done all you can to plan, organize, and extinguish fires along the way. Will all your hard work pay off?
The best way to ward off event-day stress is to give yourself plenty of time. “On the day of the event, I try to get there very early,” says Zerkel. “By the time the first person walks in — whether it’s a speaker or a vendor — I’m done with my tasks and can focus on their needs. That sets the stage for the best possible experience.”
Being early and ready will set you up for when something inevitably goes wrong — the sound system blows a fuse, or the caterer gets lost. With spare time and a calm mindset, most event-day challenges can be worked through.
But there will always be those that can’t, which is why being calm sometimes means being willing to let go of the little stuff. “The goods news is, people generally don’t notice when you haven’t done something you’d planned to,” says LeVan. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and trying to figure out what to prioritize, look at the things that don’t have to happen.
A stressed-out event creator can certainly execute a successful event. But that shouldn’t be your only goal. This year, make it a point to truly enjoy your job.
For more ideas on goal-setting for the year ahead, read The Event Professional’s Ultimate Guide to Productivity: 2019 Edition.