It’s that time again. Simultaneously thrilling and terrifying to events professionals everywhere, events season is here.

Finding the perfect venue, securing the best production team, getting kudos for an event well executed… Last minute curve balls, revised floor plans, vendors stretched too thin, and that sales exec who decides they must host a road show. Right. Now.

The roller coaster of Event Management is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 most stressful careers in the US. Find balance with these five tension-busting best practices:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate:

“Amped up sales executives coming out of left-field wondering “what is going on!!?” is stressful. When I have a regular communication plan they still come at me, but I already have the information for them.”
Amy, Sr. Event Manager, Washington DC

You know your executives, your sales team, and your boss all care about the event. But as you each get caught up in your priorities, it can be easy to forget just how important it is to them – until they come knocking. Since event plans can be dynamic, communication is the best way to head off any misaligned expectations and the stress that comes with them. A solid communication plan includes:

Kickoff

Share the goals and initial plan for the event to gather input from the team. Don’t forget to record the meeting and send a follow-up email to all.

Regular planning and status

Depending on the size of your event and team, you may want separate weekly check-ins for the planning group and the executive/sales/stakeholders/vendors. Start planning 2-3 months pre-event with check-ins every other week and increase to weekly as the event draws near. Record and share via email.

Event prep

Two weeks before the event, schedule a pre-show call with the team staffing the event. Fully arm them with all the logistics and event messaging information they need, along with their goals. This meeting is your chance to get people excited to work the event and meet your goals! Record and send.

Post-show debriefs

One week post-show, hold a meeting with sales to make sure the follow-up plan is in progress. Two weeks later, hold a debriefing session with the full team and vendors to review stats. Share your wins, record and send!

2. Breathe deeply:

“When I was stressed growing up (and to this day), my mom always made me take a deep breath. Sometimes I have to take more than one, but it never fails to calm me down and remind me what’s important.”
Kim, Sr. Event Planner, Silicon Valley

Check out these great articles from NPR and Harvard Health on the importance and proven scientific benefits of just breathing.

3. Use collaborative project management software:

“There are so many moving pieces during tradeshow season. We manage more than 20 events and their hundreds of details each year. My mighty team of 3 and our vendors keep everything running smoothly using Basecamp.”
Pradeep, Marketing Director, San Francisco

Keeping your events team on the same page not only eliminates stress, but it also prevents things from slipping through the cracks and saves duplication of effort (i.e. – save time and money).

There are many very inexpensive project management tools online today; some are entirely free, and some cost big money. Client favorites include Basecamp, Microsoft Project, KanbanFlow, and Jira. But what you like depends on what features are important to you in combination with your budget.

Talk to your team and make a list of features you ‘must have’, would ‘strongly prefer’ and those that are
‘nice to have’. Consider features like:

  • To-do Lists to keep track of task due dates and project deadlines
  • A Calendar view to get the big picture and highlight event days
  • Gantt Charts to map timing for a long-term project
  • Kanban Boards to keep things moving in an ‘agile’ fashion
  • Commenting or Live Chat Feature to discuss the project with your team in real- (or near-real) time
  • Time Tracking to log time against specific projects or tasks
  • File sharing and Storage to avoid versioning issues, allow everyone access
  • And so many more…

The application experts at Zapier have created a comprehensive overview of the 15 Best Free Project Management Apps.

4. Take breaks:

“I literally forget to go to the bathroom.”
Ashley, Event Coordinator, Chicago

Events are deadline-driven; it’s easy to get swept up in what you’re doing or pulled from one urgent matter to the next. But I think we can all agree that when it gets to the point of forgetting to take care of essential needs (and most of us have gotten to this point!), it’s time to rethink our priorities. Eating, sleeping, breaking for the bathroom, even going for a walk will increase your productivity. If you can’t get away for a half hour walk, stand up and walk for a minute or two every hour. Park farther from your building, take the stairs. When you take care of yourself, your brain will thank you with more ideas and energy.

Read this comprehensive and informative article from Fast Company that covers 3 reasons to take breaks, 4 break methods to try, and 16 productivity-boosting activities for your break.

5. Have a backup plan:

“After 10 years, I know – it’s the inevitable law of events. SOMETHING will go wrong. Most of the time it’s something small, but I’ve had everything from speaker no-show to shipping disaster. I now have a contingency plan for everything: extra equipment, backup vendors on speedial, a spare speaker in my pocket – you name it, I’m ready.”
Warren, Marketing Manager, Indianapolis

When we select an event vendor, we are always presented with options. The reason for picking one over the other may be the creative concept, a remarkable look presented for the stage, proximity or it may just come down to budget. Always have a Plan B ready to go. Then when that SUDDEN last minute change comes your way, take a deep breath, a quick walk around the building, and open your project management app to call the teammate or vendor who can help you get out of the jam!