Rebecca Brennan-Brown

Avatar BoxHuman | March 16, 2020

“I’ve found the secrets to being calmer, less stressed and in control”

We at BoxHuman believe that knowledge is power. Therefore the more we can gain from others, the more we become empowered. We caught up with one of these expert humans to get some more insight…

Hi Rebecca, thank you for sitting down with us today. Shall we get straight in…Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?

Hi I’m Rebecca and I am the Founder of New Black Studio, an events management company.  I have been in the events industry for over ten years, so my knowledge spans across all sectors in the industry.  I worked my way from assistant to director, turning my side hustle into one of London’s most creative event production companies.

What a great start to this interview, thank you! I like many, know that planning an event can be very stressful. Can you please tell us what is mindfulness for event managers and why is it so important?

Events Management hovers around number six on the list of most stressful jobs, just behind life threatening careers.

In an industry which is fast paced, demanding and intense, how do we maintain a level of calm? It’s easy to forget the world around you, when you’re focused on the job at hand.

Whilst it’s great to be passionate about your career, there are ways to work hard which don’t come with a one-way ticket to burn out.

Such great advice already! Can you tell us how event managers or anyone with a stressful job can stop letting their minds ‘run away’ with them.

Feeling stressed and overwhelmed makes you feel vulnerable, and as event managers. We often feel like we’re solely responsible for the success of the event. If this is you, you need to get out of your own head and back to reality.

Don’t taunt yourself with the what-ifs. Don’t get me wrong, to a certain extent it’s good to think of potential issues, but there’s a line. It’s important to not catastrophise.

A good way to snap back to reality is to ask yourself “how important is this on a scale of one to death”? If no one is going to die, it’ll probably be alright. If there is a risk of death, you should probably re-do your RAMS and risk assessments.

Thank you Rebecca for sharing that. You’re right. Sometimes thinking about the simple things can make a BIG difference! It just shows that we all have to come out of our heads from time to time. Okay, so knowing all of that what you would say someone should do to rebalance themselves?

Sometimes when you’re in the throes of a busy event season, it feels like every second is precious. We all know what it feels like to have just finished your schedule and have a member of management decide that’s the point they want to trial a new format. While your initial response might be to cry, scream, or hide, this is undoubtedly not the best use of your energy.

Taking time for yourself changes everything. It will reduce your stress levels, which in term will make your decision making much better. You’ll be in a better position to react to situations in a way that is informed by logic and sense, rather than emotion.

‘A bit of me time’ means something different to everyone. When asking around our office what someone could do to rebalance themselves the most common answers were: taking a bath, having a glass of wine, lounging on the sofa or watching the latest trash TV show. Basically anything that releases endorphins.

Very important advice. It just shows how necessary it is to make sure you stay well balanced expecially in a stressful job.  So what else would you say is important to remember when trying to stay stress-free?

Exercise to release endorphins.

The importance of exercise is something that I haven’t been able to fully appreciate until now. It’s only in the last six months that I’ve discovered that my time to go to the gym is 6am. Although I’ve never been a morning person, it’s the only time I actually have the inclination to get up and go. Maybe because I’m too tired to talk myself out of it.

Why is this relevant? Because there is a direct correlation between how good my day is and whether or not I’ve been to the gym. If I’ve not gone in about two weeks, I don’t feel like myself. If you need to be on your A-game, get that exercise in.

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I’ve definitely taken note of that. I’m feeling really energised so shall we move on. So what would you say is the best way to plan for something?

We often say that the sign of a good event manager isn’t how well you execute plan A, it’s how quickly you can come up with plan F and put it into action. Taking some time to work out where you think the pinch points might be will be well worth it.

The best way to do this is to walk through the delegate journey, from them arriving to leaving. This could be a good time to incorporate some training and walk someone through your processes. Additionally, they may have questions that you haven’t thought of.

Once you’ve anticipated potential problems, try to come up with some solutions.. If you’re running a conference, what’s the plan if a speaker is running late or has to pull out at short notice? If your event is a drinks reception, what happens if more people turn up than you’ve planned for? The reassurance of knowing your plan A, B and C relieves some of the mental stress surrounding an event.

What great points, thank you! As with anything when something is going well, its great. However, what happens when everything goes wrong? What would your advice be on that?

As we all know though, a large part of being an event manager is being able to think on your feet when things don’t quite go to plan. Which leads me nicely into my next point…It happens. It will happen!

All the prep we do prior to an event is to make sure that as few things as possible go wrong, but when it comes down to it, something usually happens. You just have to pray to the Gods of catering and production that it’s something small.

If something doesn’t quite go to plan, take a look at the issue with calmness and logic. Take a few deep breaths, and a minute to yourself if you need to. Try to boil down what the problem is in its most basic form and come up with a solution from there. What’s really happening when you panic is your fight or flight instinct kicking in, and let’s be honest, there’s probably not anything wrong that’s going to kill you. Fight it is.

Stay focused, remember to breathe and think logically – Got it. What else would you say people should remember?

If you’re reading this, and you are an event manager or someone who manages things for a living. I will assume that you’re in that position because you’ve either already proved you’re capable of doing your job, or possess the right skillset to deal with particular situations.  We’ve all had to deal with hard things before, inside and outside of work. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, try to remind yourself that you’ve dealt with hard things before, and you can do it again… So stay calm, and as George Michael said, “you gotta have faith.”

What a great way to nearly end this interview with a George Michael song quote. So before we wrap up this awesome expert advice piece. Can I ask…What are the most important skills one should know when it comes to being an event planner?

A major cause of stress as an event manager is an overwhelming to-do list and a believing that you’re superhuman. By writing a to-do list which is nowhere near achievable, you’re  just torturing yourself. Be realistic with your plans.

Having a master to-do list somewhere is fine, we use Asana. I would encourage you to be more mindful of what you add to your daily/weekly to do lists. Instead of writing twenty things per day, try to narrow it down to three things you really need to get done. You can’t have more than three things on your list, you have to prioritise.

I can guarantee that the level of satisfaction you will achieve will make you feel so much more content and less stressed. This can often then lead to diving into something else on the list because you have so much energy! But the key is you don’t have to do anything else. You just have to do those three things. This will take the paralyzing power away from perfection.

I hope that my advice has given you a few tips on how you can feel calmer, less stressed, and be more final in your day to day life, but particularly at work.

If anyone decides to have an events planning career you just have to know that it will undoubtedly be intense, but that’s where the thrill comes from. The thrill is healthy because the whole time it’s motivating you, but it’s also important to remain mentally well, and as far away from burning out as possible.