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We are delighted that in less than two months we will be running a ticketed event for 280 people. Tickets went on sale last September and we are now completely sold out. This event is traditionally held in November so the last one was back in November 2019 … for most of us I am sure that feels like a lifetime ago … and was moved again from November 2021 to March this year to make sure that it could go ahead. The signs that we can go ahead with the event are looking good, but the most cheering element is that we are now sold out. That means 280 people from lots of different companies are comfortable getting back in a room together at last. Naturally all the necessary precautions will be taken but the fact that the tickets have sold so quickly is very life affirming for the industry. Throughout this pandemic I have maintained that corporate events must look to the private event sector to gauge how confident people are. After all, if you are not keen to go to your mates’ wedding you are highly unlikely to want to come to a conference! It seems that people are now not only saying they are more confident, but they are also putting their money down and buying tickets to attend these events.

On top of that next week, I am heading off on my first international site visit since 2019 and this feels like another very significant step. I am not claiming that all is back to ‘normal’ nor that we have completed weathered the storm, but I can see the sun rays up ahead and I am taking every little win as a positive sign that we are at least heading in the right direction. After two years of uncertainty and turmoil it feels great to see these chinks of light. Just need to remember how to run an event now … !

Before the festive break I was determined to really take time out at Christmas and New Year and rest and recharge. I put plans in place to ensure that there was space for me to catch up on sleep and also have some family fun to recharge. As I was doing it, I wondered why it felt so alien to make sure that I used the break not just to catch up but to positively fuel myself with energy. I realised that, for me, this comes from my background in event management and the ‘training’ that I have had over the years. I put ‘training’ in inverted commas as it certainly was not formal training but rather a cultural landscape. Let me explain my thinking.

I believe that event management is a service-based industry. We are there to serve our clients and ensure that their events run smoothly and efficiently, offer a return on their investment and exceed their delegate expectations. This service has, over my career, meant putting the requirements of the event or client over and above my own requirements. I am sure we have all at some stage, not eaten for hours, not been able to nip to the facilities and of course most of the time we operate on less than ideal sleep cycles when onsite. Over time (I have been doing this for nearly 30 years now) could this constant prioritisation requirement mean that, subconsciously, we are training ourselves to put our health at the bottom of the list?

We are not alone, there are hundreds of others who put their own wellbeing at the bottom of the list and not just at work – parents and grandparents can be equally guilty of this. I am aware that there is a wave of recognition of this and practices in many industries are changing to ensure that staff wellbeing is more core to the way a business is set up and this should be encouraged as much as possible. For us we always now ensure that food and drink is made available regularly and, on larger, projects we have a Crew Mum whose sole purpose is to make sure that everyone takes breaks, gets rest and looks after themselves in the best possible way. Despite these efforts though the work that we (and many others) do is, by its nature, demanding and requires a level of service that inevitably leads to putting client and event before our own needs.

So what can we do? Become so self-aware that we constantly prioritise ourselves over others? That surely will have consequences, not least the onset of a very selfish society. So perhaps the answer is as simple as recognising our behaviour and tendency to put ourselves so low down and endeavour to carve out moments, hours or even a few days to right the balance. That way we can be sure to give ourselves the break and refuel we need while not compromising on the level of service we can then offer at peak project times. Christmas and New Year over and I can genuinely say that I have rested and refuelled my energy banks. Now to make sure I take time to carve out some space as we go through this year.

I was in primary school when I first became aware of the importance of being ‘on time’ for something. My headmaster at the time explained that being late for something was a very arrogant approach to life – it indicates to people that you believe your time is more important or valuable than theirs. To this day I loathe being late for a meeting (as some of you will be able to attest to!) and I am always slightly put out if others are late and don’t seem to feel it is necessary to apologise.

I realise that this dislike of tardiness has been extended into the realm of being late doing something. If anyone in the team commits to providing information or getting a job completed by a certain date … it will be done by that date, or we will provide a really good reason why it has not been possible (and we will do so in advance of the deadline with a solution already in place). So, it always comes as a shock when suppliers into our business don’t act in the same way. Occasionally we have put a deadline in place so that something does not drift but more often than not, there is work that follows on and we are planning our time around you delivering your element to us on time.

Deadlines in events are really important. In fact we are quoted as being one of the most stressful industries to work in and this is often attributed to the immovable deadlines we work with. After all we have an event date (or dates) to work towards! Any event manager will tell you that the slipping of deadlines early on in the process can have a negative knock-on effect and it is something that we do our best to guard against.

Now of course, shit happens! We all know that sometimes things outside of our control conspire against us which is why perhaps the title of this should be ‘The importance of managing expectations around a deadline’. As well as being deadline driven in the event industry, we are also known for having to be very flexible and plans constantly adapt. In the Potting Shed we are no different and I am very happy to be as flexible as I can but for goodness sake, please manage my expectations and let me know that something is going to be late.

Management of expectations is not just good working practice; it shows our mutual respect for each other and is fundamentally polite.

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