Being the number one talent in your industry

By Chair, Vanessa Green

Strategies for being an even better event professional

February saw many of us attend AIME (Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event) in Melbourne.  As part of this, MEA participated in the Knowledge Sessions, and I ran a workshop with fellow MEA director Thomas Staunton, and MEA members Lisa Kelliher (Be Challenged) and Daniel “FuZZ” Walker (Afterburner). Our workshop, “Get ready to be the number one talent in your industry,” was focused on providing insights on how to thrive in the event management industry. I’d like to share some of the key insights with you in this week's blog.

So, how can you be at the top of event management?

Something we can all agree on is that event management can be a stressful profession. In fact, it’s recognised as one of the five most stressful professions in the world! The past few years have only emphasised this, as many event professionals have had to rapidly adapt to changing situations, bouncing back from setbacks and sometimes ‘barely managing.’

Despite the unpredictability, many of us in events love the spinning plates and looming deadlines. The pressure can be motivating, but it can also drive your blood pressure sky-high. The best events are the ones that seamlessly glide along, like a swan on a lake, where no-one sees the paddling under the surface.

The focus of the workshop was on providing the tools and knowledge to help event professionals be more like that calm and graceful swan, delivering events without falling in a heap. So, what’s the inside scoop on being a peak performer?

It’s a lot to do with stress management

Stress doesn’t need to be a bad thing – the right stress, managed well, can drive us to achieve great results and help us to stand out as a top talent in our field. Stress is only a problem when it interferes with our lives and well-being.

But how do we know when we’re taking on too much? At the start of the session, Thomas and I asked the audience to rate how ready they felt to take on another work challenge, from ‘1 – Not at all! I really can’t take on another thing right now’ to ‘10 – Bring it on baby! I am ready to go. No challenge is too big for me!’ Most responses came in at around the 7-8 mark, suggesting that a lot of event professionals thrive on the busyness of their roles, but just need some strategies to help keep this pressure in check to perform at their best.

But what are the things that cause us stress? We asked the audience the number one thing that causes them stress, with the most common responses being time, money, time management, lack of control, and people. And the answers for the most effective things to remove stress were equally illuminating, with exercise top of the list, followed by watching tv, drinking wine (I love wine too, but not always the healthiest coping strategy…) and to-do lists.

Lisa Kelliher from Be Challenged shared that so much stress is a consequence of misunderstandings, misperceptions, and misinterpretations – and embracing difficult conversations allows us to nip these issues in the bud before they tip over to causing us distress. Much of being a high performer at work comes down to building our communication skills to address little issues before they turn into even bigger challenges and breaking down big problems into achievable actions to be addressed.

Lisa’s framework for difficult conversations is all around the concept of treating people with dignity to earn respect. Lisa’s tips included:

·       Considering the timing and location

·       Giving people a heads up

·       Being aware of your own communication style, so you can self-regulate

·       Depersonalising the issue

·       Listening and asking questions

·       Look for solutions together

·       Be willing to reassess your position

·       Agree on and document actions and key points discussed.

But what about when you’re in the moment and the pressure is on?

It’s great having strategies to defuse and prevent stressful situations. But being a high performer is also about delivering in any situation. So, what are the strategies you can use for peak performance, no matter what the circumstances?

As a former fighter pilot, Afterburner MD Daniel “FuZZ” Walker knows a lot about how to execute in high pressure situations. He took us through the tools he learned in the military that he now applies to business planning and are equally applicable to events. This included running through the BRIEF framework:

·       Brief the scenario

·       Review your objectives

·       Identify threats and resources

·       Execution detail

·       Flexible for contingencies.

This structured approach gives a process for managing situations, including any uncontrollable threats. When it comes to time to execute, FuZZ talked us through the importance of having a nominated wingman and strategies for managing distraction, to keep focused on the objective and remain flexible in how you get there. Being able to adapt is an important element in stress management and successfully delivering in spite of stressful conditions.

Helping you be a better event professional

A key theme that came through is that a strong element of being a peak performer is knowing when to draw on the skills of others. This includes tapping into the knowledge of others, something MEA does through our education and training programs, as well as our networking events. Our purpose is to help our members create thriving careers in the meetings and events space, giving you the tools and information you need to build a sustainable career in this ever-evolving industry. Stay up-to-date via our website and newsletters, and if you have any ideas on how MEA can serve you better, don’t hesitate to reach out to the MEA office or directly to me.