by Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM | June 18, 2014

Working in the meetings industry is many things: fast-paced, compelling, demanding. For those same reasons, the job easily can lead to burnout. I usually find myself thinking about this sort of thing more as the summer temperatures climb. Maybe that's because for many of us, we're in the middle of a busy conference season while others are enjoying summer vacations. But the hazy days of summer are also a good time to look inward to see if burnout has started to affect our work.
We frequently do feel some temporary burnout as a natural extension of the ebb and flow of our work, such as immediately following the completion of a major event. And often, before we have time to recover fully from one cycle, we're headed into another. Because of that, I think it can be hard to recognize the signs of a deeper, more persistent burnout. How can you tell the difference between the short-lived and the enduring?
For me, one telltale sign that says I need to reboot is when I know a client or a project too well. When work becomes so routine that it regularly feels tedious, or when it feels as if I could do the tasks blindfolded, I know burnout isn't far off. Feeling knowledgeable in your work is one thing, but human beings need a certain amount of challenge in order to thrive. As comforting as it might be to keep delivering the same material for a steady paycheck, it's not a good way to keep a healthy state of mind about your work.
I have seen other signs of burnout among my peers, too. One of them is when we stop seeing the amazing opportunities in front of us. Those opportunities might be exposure to cutting-edge education, providing attendees with extraordinary experiences or even just being able to do your work in a beautiful location. If you are fortunate enough to be in a career you love, and I hope you are, then realizing you aren't interested should be a red flag that you need to make some changes.
Another form of burnout that seems very common to me is complaining about a lack of quality education available to us as meeting and event professionals. As I mentioned above, humans need challenges to thrive, and as part of that they need to continue to grow and evolve. Sometimes we grow beyond the means of our industry to provide us with even more, and that's when we should stop and take notice. It doesn't mean you need to change careers, although it might mean that. But what it does mean is that you need to rethink the areas in which you can continue to grow. Consider teaching some of those classes you've outgrown. Or, if teaching isn't your thing, look beyond the traditional meetings education and into business, finance, marketing or project-management classes. These all have applications to our own industry but will offer you a different perspective.
And finally, one form of impending burnout we often overlook: chronic pain. We are in a physically demanding field, whether that means being on your feet for 18 hours a day during an event, or being in a seat all day as you are preparing for one. Not to mention the physical demands of business travel. If you are in the habit of being distracted by the typical aches and pains inherent to the work we do, that same distraction might be a sign of something deeper that you need to address in order to recharge the interest you once had in your job.
In any form it may show itself to us, burnout is a very real threat to doing our best work. What signs do you get when it's time to recharge and how do you reset yourself? I'd love to know. Comment below, or email me at You can also find me on Twitter, @E_Zielinski.