Nurse on a Covid ward. Customs officer at the UK border…
…Yes, there are so many challenging jobs we could be doing right now. But in fact, research suggests that the role of Event Coordinator is right up there as one of the most stressful jobs of all.
US recruitment site CareerCast, which publishes an annual ranking of the world’s most stressful jobs, has consistently named event coordinator among the top five; all those jobs which rank more highly expose their participants to injury or death. In 2020, wellbeing site Stress Matters even launched a dedicated helpline for those working in the events industry.
But why is the job of an Event Coordinator (and its sister occupation, event planner) so taxing? In the brochure, it seems like a fun opportunity to socialise and build contacts – and get paid for it. But in reality, there are all kinds of pitfalls and pain-points which can cause hassle.
In this post, we’re going to look at the main reasons why event coordination is among the most stressful jobs one can find – with tips to help you manage each one.
To be a good event coordinator or event planner, we have to perform lots of different roles. We have to be an accountant, a venue inspector, a health and safety manager, a catering supervisor, a PR manager, a social media guru… and many others.
These various roles encompass trillions of tiny tasks. As Verity Deaville, who runs her own event booking business under the name VerityVenue, tells us: “there are so many moving parts”. For example, she cites the problem of missing delegate name badges – “they’re like socks in a washing machine!” – and, at the other end of the scale, the nightmare of leaving a guest without a hotel room.
The key to good event coordination is juggling all these jobs and tasks and allocating sufficient time to each of them. An event coordinator will have to perform most, if not all, of these tasks every single day. And when we’re planning an event, we’ll have to switch from one to the other at a moment’s notice.
Tip: To manage the variety of the event coordination workload, make sure you delegate effectively: events professionals often fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves. This inevitably causes a stress overload.
Also, keep various tasks clearly defined and distinguished. We’d recommend creating separate email folders for the various sub-tasks involved in your event. You can then switch between each one easily.
Investing in a time-management tool such as Harvest allows you to break down your work into specific tasks and monitor the amount of resources you devote to each one.
With some jobs, deadlines are a moveable feast. If you overshoot your original timeframe by a couple of days, no biggie. With event coordination and event planning, however, this doesn’t apply.
Once you’ve announced an event, you can’t simply move it back a day or two because there’s been a hold-up. Your attendees won’t care that your catering company has pulled out, that your brochures are still being printed or that the venue has thrown a last-minute spanner in the works: they will expect the event to go ahead as promised.
Being a good event coordinator means upholding these deadlines at all times, and taking any snags in your stride to deliver what you’ve promised.
Tip: Again, tools like email and Outlook are your friend. Make sure you set regular alerts, to remind you when all the constituent parts of your event (the promotional literature, the signage, the catering bookings) need to be completed.
And be proactive in your communication: if you’re worried that a supplier or a partner isn’t going to meet your timeframe, don’t wait. Send them a message.
Ensure you’ve considered as many potential problems as possible. As Verity Deaville says, “The key to eliminating event stress is to be prepared. Of course, it’s not always possible to anticipate every scenario, so a key skill is to be able to think on your feet and quickly find alternative solutions”.
When we sign up for a career in event planning, we have to be prepared to kiss our free time (well, a big chunk of it) goodbye.
With a bit of luck, we can work nine-to-five for a few weeks of the year. But in the lead-up to events, an event coordinator can expect to work long into the evenings, and probably the weekends, too. In fact, research from event management company Cvent, which has carried out its own ‘most stressful jobs’ ranking, shows that over 40% of event planners work up to 20 hours a day in the lead-up to their events – meaning they get only five hours’ sleep a night.
Tip: At Spacehuntr, we’re big fans of the Pomodoro Technique. It helps you to divide your working day into manageable chunks and gives you regular breaks. The Pomodoro routine allows you to channel your focus and manage the time you’re working.
Also, make sure you switch off at a certain time each day. In the age of remote working, this can be difficult, but it’s important to maintain a routine by starting and stopping your work at a specific time.
If you’re really struggling for downtime, look at meditation apps like Headspace. They can provide loads of useful exercises to get you out of your head and back into your body so that you can release all that tension.
When we organise an event, we take responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of all those who attend. And that means a whole host of factors to consider.
In addition to basic health and safety regulations, we may also have to think about the specific risks of the venue we’re hiring, access to essential facilities like toilets and potential allergies arising from the catering. Our target audience may also have specific needs and circumstances to keep in mind.
Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask an expert if you’re not sure. A quick LinkedIn search will bring up a list of health and safety and building regulations experts, many of whom will be more than happy to connect and offer advice if you need it.
Today’s event coordinator has to negotiate a labyrinthine web of interlocking digital technologies, from the financial packages we use for making online payments to the CMS software for publishing blog posts. What’s more, event organisers have to be conversant with a full suite of social media tools, and able to adapt a message to each one.
This level of technological nouse may not come naturally: many of us become an event coordinator or an event planner having studied degrees such as English, History or Psychology. These didn’t necessarily equip us with the technological skills we need for our new vocation.
Plus, digital technology is advancing at such a furious pace that an event team’s day-to-day toolkit changes all the time. Even gadgets like the Blackberry, which were only invented a few years ago, are now being rendered obsolete.
All this means that to organise events effectively, we have to upskill all the time and learn new technologies on the job.
Tip: Look for tutorials on YouTube that will help you master the latest technologies – they’re usually very user-friendly. And there are plenty of specialist sites that offer blog posts and webinars on specific technologies, like Social Tables for social media).
On top of all the aforementioned stress factors, we now have Covid to worry about. The pandemic has accentuated all existing worries and created a new pain-point of its own.
The has necessitated a fundamental rethink in the way we work. Suddenly we’re being forced to embrace virtual and hybrid gatherings. Even if we can still hold physical gatherings, our event planning needs to include one-way systems, two-metre partitions, and a complex juggling act to stay within venue capacities. We’ve also been forced to absorb reams of health and safety directives (just check out the dossier provided by the World Health Organization).
At the same time, we’ve got the issue of remote working to deal with. As event planning professionals, we tend to be outgoing and communicative by nature, so it can be a struggle being isolated from our colleagues. Various studies show that remote working is fuelling stress and burnout, and our conversations with events professionals certainly reflect this.
Above all, Covid has created a sense of constant uncertainty. Previously, the event industry was in rude health: in 2019, analysts even predicted annual growth rates of 10%. But now we’re in a state of limbo, unsure when, or if, we can get back to normal.
Tip: Everyone is handling the stress of the pandemic in their own way. But one thing that may help is to consider this as an opportunity to improve your skills. Master the art of virtual event coordination, create your first hybrid event or try out a new venue layout to make things safer.
Also, we recommend finding a shared office outside your home, where you can meet like-minded people and build your network. After all, that’s what events professionals are good at, right?
Above all, remember that you’re not alone in this. We’re all feeling the Covid fatigue to some extent but, eventually, we’ll get through this.