You’ve just done an event and people tell you how amazing it was. At the same time, you’ve got the next one in the works. You’re constantly looking for ways to improve and you feel that nobody will remember how great the last one were if the next one you do isn’t successful.
Sounds familiar? I bet this is equally true no matter if you’re working on the client- or agency-side of the business. It’s that overarching notion of always needing to improve that makes our blood pressure rise.
So how do we manage the stress? Well, the answer isn’t that easy, but in this article I’ll highlight a few things that can help.
The key to stress relief is approach and mindset
For the past several event projects, I’ve kicked them off by introducing a model that puts the participant at the heart of the execution. It’s based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but I’ve adapted it for events. It looks like this:
What this does is that it forces us to filter everything we do through the model and it helps us to see how we can meet and exceed the needs of the participants. It also helps us to identify the things that really matter – the levels 3-5 of the pyramid.
As a level one example nobody will come again to your event because there’s food, restrooms, a hotel room and functioning Wifi. Of course if you fail on any of these you will hear about it so it needs to be done well. The beauty of this model, however, is that it forces you to think about what you can do to add value to the participants’ experiences. How does catering it fit in with your event’s overall creative approach? What about a little surprise in the hotel room as people arrive? Maybe a nice little message on a restroom mirror that make people smile (and that is contextual for the theme of your event)? These are all simple things that make people feel more appreciated.
Of course there are tons of more examples on how to use the tool. We all know the value of networking – it’s one of the key drivers for people to attend events in person, but too often is it forgotten when planning the program. The format of the session: How to we stimulate dialogue and exchange of thoughts? Do we fill the event days with sessions from day to night? Plan for networking!
You might now ask how this tool gives you stress relief? By hyper-focusing on the needs of the participants and by planning your event with them in mind you KNOW that you will be more successful and you KNOW that the experience will be relevant for your participants!
Define your event objectives of the events with the participants in mind. Quite often it is highly useful to either make a pre-event survey, or do qualitative interviews with prospective participants to find out what they’re after. It’s a great tool also when it comes to the ever-important event effectiveness measurements.
When you do pre- and post-event surveys, and you ask the right questions you are able to measure the impact of the event. How much did people learn? Do they feel more positive about our brand/company after having participated? Did they deepen their relationship with us? Are they more likely to increase their business with us?
Process and Planning
Being systematic is everything but your processes should be defined so that you know what needs to be done and when to do it. This will save you time and therefore reduce stress. Far too often the process document becomes a burden, so keep it as light as possible but also make it purposeful.
Make sure that you have a clear work back schedule with key milestones when things are due. Agency-side professionals are often very good at this: If you are on the client-side of the business it is worthwhile adopting your agency’s time lines and complement it with your internal mile stones. If it’s too detailed for your needs then make an abstract that can be communicated to all relevant stakeholders.
What if something goes wrong? You can plan well but it is so often the case that you get a lot of stress from the uncertainty that something might not work. What’s the solution?
First of all, always do as much as you possible can BEFORE the event. Don’t save things that you can fix until later. This will free up time to solve problems that occur.
Second, rehearse. I don’t only mean the stage rehearsals. It is also about running through the whole event verbally with the core team well in advance of the event. This way you will clear out any gaps and you will more easily identify what could go wrong – and do something about it before it happens.
One of the biggest drivers for event effectiveness these days comes via the digital revolution and new ways of communicating. New technology innovations also can be of great value. It is crucially important to plan the digital experiences as much as it is about planning the on-site execution, and both of these should be aligned in content, look and feel. One of the most stressful situations for event pros is the feeling of not quite understanding how to leverage the event in Social Media. Another one is the adoption of new technologies. For the former, your company and/or most likely have people that are digital experts. Involve them, make them a part of the core team and plan the communication activities together. For the latter – using new technologies: Testing is everything. First evaluate if the new technology adds value (use the pyramid as a filter). Then assess how well it will work, “crash test” it. Then rehearse – before the event, early enough to take action if it for some reason still does not work out.
Co-create – one team, one mission
I did mention agency-side and client-side. However, when it comes to an event project we all work for the same team, we all share the same goals and we all are equally passionate about being successful. Ultimately the event lead is accountable for the event. To make people work for the project it is very important to treat all members – internal and external – equally. This makes the whole work more fun.
As we all know, enjoying what you do is the best weapon against negative stress.
Have fun doing your next event!