B078: How to avoid burnout as an event planner

By September 6, 2019The Simplifiers Podcast

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Are you an event planner and approaching burnout?

My conversation with Jessica Zimmerman earlier this week brought up a lot of memories of working as an event planner; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Fun fact: for the first 11 years of the business, The Simplifiers were a collective of wedding and event planners. We produced large-scale, non-traditional events back in the states. And what a wild ride it was!


The reality of the events industry

If you don’t work in the events industry, it may be easy to fantasize this as a dream job, where you just get to attend parties all the time. What’s more fun than that!?!! But, I’m here to tell you… it’s so much more than that.

The events industry is fast-paced, deeply creative, ever-changing, and super intense. It’s chock full of high stakes and stress, especially if you produce weddings. I mean, think about it… for the couple (your client) there is only ONE shot to get this big day right. They (and their families) are all counting on you to ensure that the 20-30 vendors working on-site are delivering everything as promised. On time, better than they imagined, and with no surprises.

The average wedding in America costs around $44,000 USD, as per the 2018 American Wedding Study.

Clients of The Simplifiers often spent double, or even triple that. As you can imagine, that’s a LOT of money on the line for 6-8 hours of their lives. My team and I produced hundreds of live events over the years, and we never once took that responsibility lightly.

So, if you’re an event planner, how do you manage your stress and avoid burnout?

Tips to avoid burnout as an event planner

Here are a few ideas to help keep you thriving through the life cycle of an event.

1. Avoid pre-event burnout

In the week leading up to your client’s big day, it’s incredibly important that you are taking good care of yourself.

This includes:

  • Drinking lots of water
  • Not staying up late (especially the 2-3 days prior to load-in)
  • Making sure you aren’t overloading your schedule with too many meetings or calls

Pace yourself

Things tend to get super exciting in the days leading up to an event, what with last minute client requests and ‘switcheroos’. Or tracking down a rogue DJ who hasn’t confirmed they received the ‘day-of production schedule and itinerary.’

Make sure to tie up any loose ends at least 48 hours before the event to ensure everything runs smoothly.

Stop the clock

2-3 hours before you are slated to arrive on-site at a client’s event, I want you to carve out this time as sacred, and just for you.

  • Slow down
  • Take a few minutes to meditate
  • Eat a protein-rich breakfast
  • Sit on a park bench and chill out

Whatever you do, do it with intention. Aim to keep this time as low stress as possible as you get your brain and your body in the zone, ready for action.

Do ‘busy work’ in advance

To make sure you get this slow-down time, you need to do the busy pre-work well in advance. Things like:

  • Printing out extra copies of your day-of production schedule
  • Organizing your event binder and online files
  • Packing the event emergency kits and supply boxes

Don’t wait until the last minute to do this busy work or you’ll just run yourself ragged.

Remember, you are just like an athlete who trains for the Olympics. She doesn’t wait until the big competition day to start her training program. Instead, the morning of, she is getting her head in the game. She’s stretching, and preparing mentally for what’s ahead, and this is important for you too.

Prepare your gift for the finish line

Look after yourself in advance of the end. Do this before you leave for the event venue, as this is a gift for your future self, post-event. Set out your most comfiest pajamas and slippers, plus a big glass for water in the living room at your home. You’ll thank yourself later.

2. Avoid burnout during the event

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the very best… and the ones we totally forget when we are moving fast on the job.

If you’re a wedding or event planner and you’re going to be on your feet for a full-on 10-12 hours, set yourself up for success. Here’s how:

Prepare to perform at your best

Arrive on-site 15-minutes before you’re officially slated to be there.

I know this sounds a bit counter intuitive—making your work day longer than it needs to be—but I’ve found this little secret really helps.

So, let’s say you’re supposed to arrive at 11am. If you get to the venue at 10:45am, you’re calm, cool, and collected. Fully confident and able to walk the floor, getting a clear idea of how the venue staff are doing. Set the tone of ‘I’m in charge,’ and do it on your terms.

Remember, when you are calm, cool, and collected, it ripples out to everyone you come in contact with. And since you’re the ringmaster today, everyone is looking to you for answers. They need a verbal or non-verbal cue that everything is going to plan… or not.

Wear sensible shoes

This is NO time to be trying out brand new shoes. Break them in by wearing them around the house in the week leading up to the event. That way, if they are blister-prone, you know better than wearing them on the big day.

Also, buy Band-Aid brand Hydro Seal heel blister bandages. Even if you don’t have blisters, put them on anyway, as it acts as a second skin. Your feet will thank me later.

Keep hydrated

Drinking plenty of water on the big day will mean that you clear the brain fog, and work at your best. Bring a reusable water bottle with you and label it with your name, phone number and your company’s name… in case you misplace it.

Don’t be sneaky and try to trade the water for energy drinks, sodas or sugary drinks. You know as well as I do, there is no substitute for the real stuff. And if you load up on sugar or caffeine, you’ll likely crash midway through the event, which serves no one.

3. Avoid post-event burnout

Hooray, the event was a huge success, the client is happy and load-out was a breeze! Well done, you. Here are my very best tips on how to recover and avoid burnout immediately after the event.

Go straight home and claim your gift

Remember those PJs and slippers you set out for yourself? As soon as you get home, (…do not pass GO, do not collect $200…) slip into those immediately!

It’s likely others in your home are fast asleep, so stay in the living room for the first 30 minutes. This gives you some space to wind down.

Any experienced event planner knows that the adrenaline rush of producing an incredible event takes some time to wear off at the end of the night. Therefore, avoid trying to go straight to bed because it’s just not going to happen.

Wind-down ideas

Do one mindless thing to help your brain wind down slowly, and ease yourself into sleepiness. This may include:

  • Watch an episode on Netflix
  • Read a book or magazine
  • Soak your feet in some warm water and dead sea bath salts

After this last one, prop up your feet above your heart to reduce swelling the next day.

Avoid social media!

I highly recommend resisting the temptation to check the event’s hashtag or on social media for photos and comments of the event. (I know, I know… it’s hard!)

But really, if you know the client is happy and all of the vendors have done a great job, save this for the next morning. It’ll be like a little gift you give yourself to relive the excitement and WOW of the big day.

If you don’t hold off, you risk falling down a social media rabbit hole, and never get to sleep that night.

One final whisper

Being an event planner is like being an undercover superhero. Your clients, your staff, your vendors ALL rely on you to #DoTheThing.

It’s likely you’re a number 2 on the Enneagram or a 2w3 like me. The consummate helper, hostess, and/or people pleaser.

That’s what makes you GREAT at what you do as an event planner.

But remember, to stay healthy, you must take good care of yourself FIRST… mind-body-spirit.

You are compassionate, caring, and a natural born nurturer. You go the distance because you can’t imagine doing any less for others, especially your clients.

Remember to ask for help

Delegate the little tasks off to your Event Assistants and trusted staff. They are eager to step up and into more responsibility. Call on them both in the week leading up to your client’s event, and on the big day itself.

The more you do this, the better a leader you’ll become. And that’s how you grow and scale this business. Ultimately, doing less to accomplish more.

Step back today

If burnout feels imminent, consciously step back from your busy schedule today.

See where you can carve out 5 minutes. Ask yourself, ‘What do I need today, in order to get back to thriving?’

And then, give it to yourself. Whatever it is.

To avoid burnout and be the best you can be, slow down, nourish yourself, and simplify.

You can do this, I believe in you.

It’s time to SIMPLIFY.

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Thank you!

Show credits: Suzen Marie, our Podcast Editor. Jeffrey Lynn, our Video Editor. Lyden and Janine Yardley, our Show Notes Editors. Manminder Athwal, our Blogger. Aubri Nowowiejski, Chris Justice and George Mills, our advisory board. And I’m your host, Mary Baird-Wilcock. Thank you so much for joining us.

As always friends, keep things simple.

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