April 01, 2003
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April 2003 Current Issue
April 2003 Back to BasicsPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

Back to Basics

By Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM


Sage tips to help neophyte planners keep their cool during a high-pressure event

The time and effort required to plan events can generate an array of strong emotions, including fear and joy, inspiration and exasperation, any or all of which might be experienced in a single day.

These emotions are particularly intense for the first-time planner. The weight of inexperience, the desire to do a perfect job, and the unforgiving, high-profile, time-sensitive nature of the profession all contribute to extreme stress. Almost every planner can recall a meltdown or two during that very first meeting. Even veterans will admit to getting frazzled at particularly difficult events for new clients or when trying a new format.

The following primer will help even the most high-strung professional stay cool, no matter what comes up.

Think positive. Feeling confident is the antidote to 99 percent of stress. If you’re as prepared as possible, some of the worry will dissipate.

Write it down. Make lots and lots of lists: checklists, task lists, fear-of-what-can-go-wrong lists. Anticipate worst-case scenarios, and combat each one with a comprehensive, written contingency plan. Find a mentor. Reach out to someone, perhaps a seasoned planner, who can guide you through your panic attacks, help navigate upper- management obstructionists, teach you to recognize potential conflicts, as well as banish unreasonable concerns.

Involve suppliers. Seek out veterans at the host property. It’s likely they have seen and had to remedy every problem unique to their venue and can help you prevent disasters.

Be comfortable. Wear really comfortable shoes (such as those designed for nurses) and clothes you feel great in and that are flexible enough to allow you to dive under the registration table to plug in your laptop.

Have a backup. Designate a staff member who knows everything you know, who has a copy of the essentials from your meeting binder and who can take over in a heartbeat if you are pulled away to put out a fire.

Keep breakdowns private. Never let them see you cry. Just as you have mapped out emergency routes for attendees, find emergency meltdown stations your hotel room, a stall in an empty bathroom, behind a large ficus plant. Knowing you have a secret hideout for a brief implosion can be a natural Prozac that prevents an emotional overload.

Don’t rush things. Be considerate of your attendees don’t make them feel like they have to leave by closing down the program too early.

Keep smiling. Don’t retire your game face or complain aloud until after the last participant departs. Tie up loose ends. Hold a post-con meeting with staff and vendors. Write thank-you notes and distribute gratuities. Begin to assess the event’s return on investment immediately feedback is essential even if the program is not a complete success.

Review the ratings. How did it go? What was the buzz? An on-the-spot review of evaluations is cathartic and will help ameliorate post-event letdown. Even harsh criticism will help you prepare to answer to your supervisors and suggest positive changes you can make for the next event.

End on a high note. Celebrate with your team by emphasizing what went right and brainstorming ideas for improvement.

Last but not least...Take a bath, get a massage, explore the city you’re in or do whatever you find is guaranteed to relax you and take your mind off work.

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