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How to make events less stressful

John Fisher provides a checklist of 7 essentials

A recent survey by Q Hotels in the UK highlighted the fact that more than 70% 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 before an event. 98% 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.
Being concerned that all the planning goes right on the big day is not exclusive to event organisers, of course.


It could be said that almost any project work which has a live culmination or result is equally stressful. Weddings are notorious ‘pinch points’ for non-specialists who may not realise that event management is not all about champagne and sleeping in 5-star hotels. So, what are the main areas where stress could be reduced for the professional organiser?

1. Control of the variables is key.
That means drawing up a comprehensive list of all the action areas requiring attention and setting out a grid of dates so you can minimise surprises. Clients often say that a good event is where the organiser has nothing to do. With a well-planned and documented event, that should be the case.

2. Think through what contingencies you need in case of exceptions.
By their very nature sudden changes of plan and chance happenings will disrupt the carefully thought-through programme and can cause chaos, if they are not anticipated. Clearly you could spend many weeks preparing for things that are not going to happen. So you need to be sensible about spending too much time on this aspect. But it is well worth looking at the most likely things which could affect your event.

3. Do you have a disaster recovery plan?
This is the kind of question that clients ask agencies to confirm before they are formally appointed to run a high profile project. But don’t confuse this requirement with simply the ability to act quickly. A disaster recovery plan is usual a comprehensive file of checklists, contact numbers and formal emergency plans which the agency will have rehearsed, if only mentally, should there be a major incident such as a road accident, a natural disaster, or a death.

4. Keep calm.
When a client requests a major change of timings due to a request, say, from a senior executive, don’t immediately start rushing about. Take a few moments to consider the impact of changing the plan. The law of unintended consequences is a cruel phenomenon. It may well seem sensible to delay the start of an event by one hour, perhaps ‘due to heavy road traffic’. But if this means that delegates miss their flights home at the end of the event, that’s not good.

5. Use experienced staff.
When you are planning an event some six months ahead, it may seem very reasonable to think of rewarding junior employees of your client with the chance to attend the event and work ‘on the desk’. Handling delegates who are in a rush, who may be annoyed at being late, who have not registered or who are even at the wrong event entirely requires a thick skin, especially if the guests are distributors who expect to be treated like VIPs, rather than fellow employees. As an agency, we have had to replace client registration desk staff on many occasions at short notice, as client employees could not cope with this vital role.

6. Put things in perspective.
At the time a power cut, a strike or an unfortunate death may seem like the end of the world for a detail-obsessed, get-it-right event organiser. But in the context of human activity, these things happen. Most people will empathise with the organisers and will do their best to help where they can.

7. You are never alone.
Whatever happens, there are always other people around who can offer guidance. Supplier knowledge is invaluable when you need to dig your event out of a hole. Event organisers are trying to herd cats into a sack most of the time, so it is no surprise that one or two go missing from time to time. The important thing, to avoid stress, is to accept that life isn’t perfect.

If most delegates get most of the messages most of the time, that in itself is an achievement.

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