01 Mar 2017 | By Sun International
Minimise Your Stress When Planning a Conference
Event planning ranks amongst the most stressful occupations out there. Sure, it's a creative profession, and the rewards are far-reaching, but the pressure to plan an enjoyable and worthwhile conference can push your stress levels into the red. Dial down the anxiety and check out our stress-busting tips:
1. Start at the end
When you're planning your conference, start brainstorming the day-of immediately. It may be months away, but visualising your event as soon as possible will give you the luxury of a stress-free mental walk-through long before anything can possibly go wrong - and you know from experience that something will go wrong, somewhere.
Working backwards will also prevent you from getting bogged down in the details, and loosen you up to brainstorm with creative freedom. When the ideas are down on paper, break them into categories: research (venues, speakers, entertainment, etc.), sourcing (vendors and suppliers), scheduling (your planning process, as well as the agenda), budget (how much money you need and where it's coming from) and logistics (set-up and break-down, transport, etc.)
Stress-busting tip: always anticipate the worst-case scenario, and plan accordingly. For every item on your brainstormed wish list, jot down a Plan B option.
2. Get organised
What you need is a calendar. Using the working-backwards strategy, mark down your known deadlines. When is the event? How many days of set-up and break-down do you anticipate? When do you need to finalise your attendance numbers? This step will give you an idea of when you need to initiate your registration process, and finalise requirements with your caterer, for example.
Of course the highest priority here, is your venue. If you can tie your venue down as early as possible, it'll inform all your choices on a budgetary and scheduling level.
Stress-busting tip: make your venue work for you. If you're hosting your event at one of the great conference venues at The Maslow hotel in Sandton, ask the banqueting manager to weigh in on the available in-house facilities, from catering to audio-visual requirements. If you can secure a package deal that ticks off several of your wish list items and they're all available under one roof, within your budget restraints, you'll be less stressed. Check out The Maslow's seminar packages.
3. Keep tabs on your budget
Make sure to review your budget daily. There's nothing more stressful than working with someone else's money, so be transparent about it at all times. Be sure to budget for contingencies, so that there's always money available for any last minute requirements.
Stress-busting tip: when it comes to suppliers, be sure to review contracts and cancellation policies with a fine-tooth comb. Add your payment deadlines to your calendar, and immediately collate on a daily running budget. If you always know where you stand in terms of your budget, you'll prevent unnecessary stress - and save money.
4. Use appropriate technology
Online event registration is a must. Gone are the days of fax registration and collecting payment via bank draft. Registering attendees the old way will just cause enormous stress. But at the same time, don't assume that all technology will solve your problems. If you want to create a buzz on social media around your event, make sure your attendees are the kind of audience that can access and engage on those channels.
Stress-busting tip: do some research on what technology is available, and then critically examine whether it'll simplify things or complicate them. Make sure that whatever technology you use is accessible to everyone on your team.
5. Divide and conquer
Breaking down your event into small tasks and then effectively delegating them to your team is one of the best practices in reducing stress. You may be responsible for the entire event, but holding your team accountable for the various puzzle pieces that need to fit together to pull it off successfully will not only take some stress off your shoulders, it'll empower your team too.
Stress-busting tip: from the word go, put together an Event Bible that includes all of your vendor contracts, extra copies of the floor plan, and cheat sheets of information for easy reference. This folder should also contain the people responsible for each task - with their contact numbers. Putting together an Event Bible will help to prevent you from being the bottleneck for all decisions.
6. Double-check everything
It's easy for small details to fall through the cracks. Make sure you have detailed lists of everything required, from choosing menus to booking accommodation for your keynote speaker. Writing down lists is in itself a stress-reducing activity. Think of lists as maps - you're marking your course one step at a time to a successful event.
Stress-busting tip: make it the last thing you do each day - put a to-do list together for the following day's planning. When you get to work in the morning, you'll already know what needs to be checked up on, followed up on, and with whom.
7. Look after your wellbeing
It goes without saying that the way you treat yourself is directly related to your stress levels. Your health also directly affects your work performance. Look after your diet, schedule in some down-time, and approach each task with energy and joy. If you're healthy and happy on the day of your event, you'll enjoy it so much more.
Stress-busting tip: most experts will agree that balance is the key to health. Maintain a work-life balance by being organised and scheduling some down-time (yes, put it in your diary). If you're someone that struggles to switch off, here's a great tip: On your next pre-event site inspection at The Maslow, schedule in a follow-up spa treatment at the Africology Spa.