Stress has a second wave in events industry

Dr Lynda Shaw
Events leaders are struggling to plan for the coming months, with the constant uncertainty about how Covid-19 will shape 2021, with stress and anxiety having its own second wave in the workplace, according to neuroscientist, business psychologist and change specialist Dr Lynda Shaw.

Whilst some events businesses have ceased trading and many events have been postponed or cancelled, it is still hard to know what exactly is around the corner and how best we can plan for it, according to Shaw, who is a also a professional speaker herself.

“Our brain finds ‘the unknown’ very hard to deal with and research shows that uncertainty is more alarming and anxiety-inducing than known outcomes, even if they are bad outcomes. When faced with a perceived threat the body responds by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, readying you for action, but at the same time decreasing your ability to make decisions and affecting your productivity. Try to calm things down as best you can for clear thinking.  Find a space, quiet and a time to formulate another plan of action but keep it flexible because things just might change again.”

The good news is that by now we probably know what works and doesn’t work in creating an event so we are better placed in 2021 to avoid the dramatic effects Covid-19 had on the events industry and on our mental health at work in 2020.

“We need to plan, plan, plan but know that the plan may have to change.  Knowing the company’s strengths and weaknesses enables strategic analysis of what problems you are likely to face and to start looking for solutions.  But in this current climate you may just find a solution only to then need to adjust again. Have a plan but build in flexibility wherever possible and be prepared to have a plan B and C, or short, medium and long term plans. Flexibility is a key part of resilience.”

So how can we be flexible and resilient and grow as an industry in the next six months? Shaw says: “Event organisers and speakers certainly need to find ways to replace the buzz, vibrancy, interactions and ability to network that we may have had and never fully appreciated pre-Covid 19. We have to be more creative than ever to create personalised clever events and to build business resilience, and diversity certainly has to be part of that. We need to be quite futurist about it all, and in fact many of us see the Covid-19 crisis as a catalyst for innovation.”

Other business leaders agree and explain how best to make decisions about events for 2021. Relevant, actionable, content is everything according to Maria Franzoni, Director at London Speaker Bureau: “The events industry will need to prioritise highly personalised, engaging content that provides real value whether the format, is live, virtual or hybrid. Hopefully bigger events are not too far in the distant future.” 

Thom Dennis, Managing Director of Serenity in Leadership says: “Businesses thrive when people thrive so the main ways to protect your business or enable it to recover and grow during Covid 19 are to work inclusively, responsibly, embrace diversity and focus on the power and potential of ‘we’ by working together.”

Many experts believe we will see a number of changes come into effect in events such as a hybrid of both live and virtual to give flexibility to attendees but enable the speaker to have a few people in a room giving feedback to increase engagement.  

Shaw says “If there’s one thing the current crisis has made us realise, it is that we need to be both proactive and reactive but we can only take things step by step to protect the business and to reduce uncertainty and anxiety.”

Here are a few of Dr Shaw’s top tips of how to cope with anxieties and uncertainties that we may be currently experiencing:- 1.      Be as flexible as you can – Show that you are a team player by offering as much flexibility to your customers, employees and colleagues as possible. We really are all in this together.  

2.      Communicate clearly and honestly to reinforce loyalty through transparency.  Try to find capacity to answer any difficult questions and now is not the time to be hiding the need for change.  

3.      Think and act as quickly as possible – What solutions and services can you provide with certainty in the immediate future and what could the positive impact be?  Think laterally and vertically.  Be creative.  Find out what your clients and colleagues need in the next six months or so.  Leaders and businesses that are quick to react effectively stay nimble and are able to deal well with change.  

4.      Don’t underestimate our need to be social. Humans are social creatures and if we enjoy the people around us feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin are released and reward neural activity is stimulated in the brain. Check in with known vulnerable employees.  Without inundating with Zoom or Microsoft Teams meetings, ask your target audience and colleagues how they are doing. Embrace inclusivity more than ever.  

5.      Be a strong leader.  Now is the time to show your strength and versatility to overcome the challenges still ahead but know that this difficult period will pass in time.  Demonstrate credibility, passion and your commitment.