What would you guess are the five most stressful jobs in the world?
I’d bet you can guess most of them: firefighter, military personnel, police officer, airline pilot.
But the fifth most stressful job in the world might surprise you. That is, unless, you’re an event planner…
For the sixth year running, event planning has been ranked as one of the most stressful jobs on Earth. This year, CareerCast has pegged “event coordinator” at #5 on their list of stressful jobs—just slightly less stressful than running into burning buildings.
CareerCast uses an 11-point stress-factor methodology and ranks each factor on a scale to determine the amount of stress a worker can predict to experience in any given job. When you look at the categories (amount of travel, working in the public eye, meeting the public, and deadlines), it’s easy to see why event coordinators make the list.
While event planners may not be putting out literal fires, they are certainly dealing with their fair share of potential “disasters.”
Event coordinators, we can do better! That’s not a list we want to be on. Let’s take some of those common stressors and discuss some realistic solutions.
Here’s three primary stressors and suggested shifts to help raise the consciousness of event coordinators and see that ranking fall in 2018.
The event coordinator serves as the conduit of information between the client or host organization, speakers (often VIPs), participants, vendors, and event staff. Stress creeps in as the planner works to meet the expectations of every stakeholder and ensure that the planning process does not devolve into a game of telephone. An event planner knows that he or she is responsible for synthesizing everyone’s ideas to achieve the overall vision. This leads to a heightened sense of vigilance, organization, and possibly, the need to “control” the process.
Attitude Shift: Communicate Dynamically
Communication can break down when our expectations do not match the outcome. Before planning begins, instead of expectations, co-author agreements. Agree on “who’s who” and collaborate within your work group to define responsibilities for every stakeholder. Once the agreement has been outlined share it internally and externally with vendors and partners. As the planning begins, consider the most effective method to relay messages or information, be it a phone call, e-mail, or in-person meeting. No matter the method of communication, sharpen your listening skills and hear what is truly being said. With collaborative agreements made early on, the work group will be proud to do their part and effectively bring the vision of the event to life.
Communication breakdowns can sour any coordinator/client relationship.
Stressor: Physical Demands & Deadlines
You have been planning for weeks, months, or maybe even up to a year. As the planner, you have calculated the risks, walked the space, coordinated the setup, selected the menu, curated the content, drafted the agenda, rehearsed the content, and tested the A/V. You intimately know every detail and now, it’s time to roll.
The event coordinator is often the primary point of contact the day(s) of the event. Stress factors here include the need to always be “on” and hyper-vigilance. Perhaps, however, the largest contributor is time. Planners are often the first ones in and the last ones out, resulting in 12 to 16-hour work days.
During that time, planners may not have the opportunity to eat or sit down.
Attitude Shift: Build Relationships
Dynamic communication is your entrée into building relationships. Rally a team that can support you on event day. Companies like Convene offer on-site Production and Service Managers that act like an extension of your events team. Building partnerships, letting people in on the day’s plan, and delegating will allow you to work smarter and focus on self-care so you can do a better job. Tag in a volunteer while you eat lunch, have someone remind you to hydrate. And always sit when you can.
Events move fast, and event coordinators must move even faster.
Stressor: Inner Critics
Due to the nature of the role, event planners may be hyper-achievers, perfectionists, controllers or a combination of the three. Planners are meticulous and appreciate that every detail counts. These traits are highly valued in the role but, when left unchecked, can sneakily become self-sabotaging. If our goal as planners is to ultimately produce a transformative event—and, as a planner, writing this next phrase is uncomfortable—how important is the minutiae? Is it necessary to adjust the chairs by three degrees or completely edit and reprint the agenda for a minor spacing issue? How are our inner critics like perfectionism, hyper-achievement and hyper-vigilance holding us back?
Attitude Shift: Develop Self-Awareness
Our inner critic (what I call a “Gremlin”) is that little voice inside of our head that holds us back just when we are on the brink of greatness. Often, a thought, feeling, or action that has served us well in the past may in truth become our Kryptonite. Your Gremlin will often cause you to act differently in stressful situations (like event day). Self-awareness is one of the greatest qualities in a leader—build this muscle and kick your inner critic to the curb! When we find ourselves in moments of stress we can ask ourselves “How is this holding me back?” or “How is this serving the goal of the event?” Self-awareness will give you the power of choice in stressful event situations.
Sometimes the most critical eye is our own.
Change Your Habits Before You Burnout
Stress is a surefire way to burnout. When we explore the root causes of work stress, we open ourselves up to more opportunities and longevity in our roles. Event planning is a fun, exciting, and fulfilling career—after all, we are in the business of helping people make memories. 2018 is the year of the event planner attitude shift! Let’s all work to raise our self-awareness and see our stress rank plummet. I’d much rather see us on another list, wouldn’t you?