Practical Advice on Stress from Deanna Nwosu: Be Proactive Not Reactive
Just as the industry exhaled a sigh of relief when in-person experiences gradually made a return, event planners are now experiencing deja vu and stress is at an all time high.
As the industry faces uncertainty once again, event planners find themselves in familiar territory. We sat down with Deanna Nwosu, DES, CMP, Founder and Event Strategist for Deanna Camille on what causes stress and how to help reduce it.
“Event professionals, who might work in an office 80 percent of the time and work onsite 20 percent of the time, it's realistic and reasonable if two weeks before the event you work longer hours, or you might have to go in an extra day, go in on a saturday, that's reasonable,” Nwosu said. “If you're working like that 24/7, 365, you have to ask yourself why.”
For some event professionals, stress is a natural part of the job and when events go live, the pressure is on. With the pressure of needing to get so many things done at once, event planners think they are accomplishing more, when really they aren’t.
“Our brains can’t handle doing two things at once. Multitasking makes us less efficient, it makes us take longer to do tasks, and it makes us not do the task as well,” said Nwosu. “Oftentimes we multitask, and we do two tasks poorly as opposed to doing one really well at a time. Those are the things that contribute, on an industry-wide level, why we overwork and are stressed out.”
From handling guest lists to finding vendors, planning out an event experience involves a lot of decision-making. Hovering over it all is a client with a list of demands, but sometimes, event planners must take a step back and say no when they are being pushed to the max.
“It's easier said than done to tell a client something hard or tell a client no, but if we are talking about mental health and stress, there's no paycheck that’s going to be worth it,” Nwosu said. “You have to step back and realize what is the barrier of why I can’t say no and is it real, or is it a mindset thing you need to work through.”
As a result of the pandemic, event planners have had to quickly adapt to two new event experiences: hybrid and digital. Although that abruptness to learn new skills has added to stress for the position, the uncertainty is the kicker.
“What’s more stressful than learning those new skills is the uncertainty and waiting for decisions to be made. Our role is planning and when decisions aren’t made we can’t plan,” said Nwosu. “‘Let’s wait and see’ is probably the worst answer an event professional can get. Are we doing in-person, are we doing virtual, are we doing hybrid? Because even if you select one of those options you still might need contingency plans. Things shift, and you need to be agile.”
How can event planners reduce their stress levels?
“It's widely overlooked how much being rested does your body and mind well. If you get eight hours of sleep and do really well drinking water, you can endure a lot of things if your body is hydrated.” Nwosu said. “From a professional standpoint, I try to manage how many hours I work a week. Be cognizant of it; I think a lot of the time we lose sight of the forest for the trees. We are just booking things and scheduling things, and you lose sight of how jam-packed your calendar is.”
A good way to reduce stress is by shifting your perspective on the work you are doing.
“At the end of the day, we are not curing cancer. I think that quick perspective shift relieves a lot of pressure even in the midst of a high-stress environment.”
Although the pressure to plan any event can cloud the mind, reducing stress is all about acknowledging it, then creating a plan to help reduce it.
“My greatest tip for people in terms of reducing stress and career advice overall is remember you're the captain of the ship. I think a lot of times we allow certain situations and we allow things to happen to us that [we could prevent] if (1) we have better boundaries, (2) if we say no, and (3) if we manage it on the outside; be a little more proactive and a little less reactive. Being unconventional with creating systems to prevent it or creating systems to heal from it or work through it when you're stressed; think outside the box.”
“Self care can be a lot of different things, self care can look a million different ways. Don’t be afraid to create a path for yourself that looks completely different to 99% of what other people would do,” Nwosu said.