September 24, 2015

Event Planners: Embrace the Downtime

One day my boss, Emily, founder of EOE, asked if she could call me. She does not usually call.

She texts, emails, even sometimes sends a dove. So when she texted me and said, can I call you in 20 minutes? I said, “Better make it 5 or I will have an anxiety attack.”

The next thing I knew my bags were packed and I was off to California for the entire summer. One of our clients was looking for some event support, but one of the requirements was to have full time help on site, and I was the girl for the job.

There is a lot I could tell you about my summer in California. How I saw the tallest trees in the world, drove miles and miles along the breathtaking coastline…

Image by

but professionally speaking there is one thing I learned that I will hold close for the rest of my professional career. That is, in the events world, there is no 9-5 job, and that when you get a chance to take a breath, you embrace it. Here’s what I learned about living the workaholic life so that I can enjoy the less stressful times that come along with being an event planner.

Have you ever sat back and thought about how the 9-5 M-F work week became the norm? And when did leaving work on time become an act of heroism? Listen, I love to get into the nitty gritty and burn that midnight oil when we have deadlines. I appreciate the fact that I enjoy what I do, no matter how long I have to work, while many others twiddle their thumbs and watch the clock. When I landed back at JFK and knew that once I got off that red eye flight that we had finished working a project, I was ready to embrace my next challenge – downtime.

With a startup in Silicon Valley where a concept of what others may consider a normal profession were a thing of the past, our team averaged working 9am to 9pm, and on a few occasions pulled off 17 hour work days. The 7 days before the event we easily worked 100 hours to make it to the finish line. Needless to say, when the contract was done, we were exhausted.

Why was it that we felt guilty to leave before 5pm when we returned back to our office? The cultural norm remains at 9-5, but just as easy as it is to make the decision to work after 5pm, it should be just as easy to end the workday before 5pm. Or starting after 9am, or whenever the heck you want it to for that matter.

So I am back, in my cubicle (decorated with some new event swag) and working on my new projects. Sometimes I come in at 10am, and sometimes I leave at 2:30pm. Does that make me a bad professional? I would argue no. That makes me a balanced person. Email? On my phone just a ding away. That spreadsheet? Being updated by the team in real time via Google Sheets. My responsibilities are located in my back pocket, and if the team or client truly needs me, I’m only a cell phone call away.

Forbes named Event Planning the 5th most stressful job in 2014, right behind Enlisted Military Personnel, Military Generals, Firefighters, and Airline Pilots. Thats right, we are put in the same group with people who fear for their physical lives at their jobs. Senior Corporate Executives fall behind us at #7, yet double in the median salary, so atleast they are compensated well for their stress. Hey, I am not complaining, we know the door to another career path is always there, but as event professionals we all stick it out –

because the down-time is what keeps us sane and is essential for all event planners that endure this undoubtable stress.

Image by

So, fellow event profs, how was my summer? Busy and stressful as hell. But I am fully embracing the downtime and don’t feel guilty for even a second about it, and neither should you. Take time to get into those projects that hit the back burner. For me they are things like fostering relationships and digging back into marketing. I had to ask myself, when’s the last time I updated our website content? Back burner items deserve some time as a priority to ensure long term success. And of course, I am making some time for myself, because I am my most important client, and you should be too.