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Planners at Their Breaking Point

Two-plus years of day-to-day uncertainty around business events has taken a human toll, say planners in MeetingsNet’s latest survey. Here, event organizers share their stories of stress along with their advice on how to cope, because the uncertainty isn’t over yet.

Since 2016, meeting and event coordination has ranked as one of the five most stressful jobs, according to EventWell, an organization focused on the well-being of businesspeople attending meetings as well as the planners of those meetings. 

However, since March 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic completely changed the business-events sector, the case can be made that no other job has been as stressful as that of meeting planner. 

Anyone who isn’t quite sure of this should consider the results of a survey conducted by MeetingsNet in late February that got 175 planner responses:

• 88.6 percent say their job is “much more stressful” or “somewhat more stressful” than before the Covid pandemic

• 36 percent say they feel “stressed or frustrated at work every day,” while another 44.6 percent say they feel “stressed or frustrated at work a few days a week”

• 56.6 percent say that work stress has made them consider leaving their job—and fully three-quarters of those people would not take another job as an event planner

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Even more grim are the on-the-ground observations provided by some of the responding planners:

“Because of Covid, my work has new kinds of stress that I wasn't prepared for when I agreed to the job. Hotel-staffing levels, supply-chain impacts, executives dropping out of programs after testing positive for Covid, and pivoting from live to virtual to hybrid and back to virtual all make this job so frustrating.”

“My main stressor is having to re-plan, re-schedule, re-source venues, re-contract, and re-invent the wheel for events that I've already planned … and then having to manage communication about changed dates, formats, and Covid protocols to event stakeholders over and over again!”

“Working virtually is just as hard as in-person, maybe even harder, but with none of the perks. It's not the actual work that's increased my stress as much as having no clear delineation between home life and work life. Everything is all jumbled together for two years now; it's so mentally exhausting.”

“While the workload for planning an in-person meeting is high, planning a virtual component on top of that is very stressful. No one understands that hybrids are actually dual conferences. I hate the word ‘hybrid’—it does not accurately convey the work or stress level involved.”

“I have consistently found a lack of knowledge among executive teams about the workflow that goes into planning an event, specifically big corporate conferences.”

“Large projects have been added to my workload without additional compensation. I might as well leave at 5 p.m. each day because you don’t get those hours back you take away from family, friends, and pets you love.”

“I had several team members leave during 2020 who were not replaced because management said ‘well, we’re not planning in-person meeting right now.’ I argued that we still had to do contracting for future years and that virtual events were even more work because it required the team to skill up. We're now back to doing in-person events, some of which will actually overlap—but I am unable to hire good people because of the tight job market. I am handling the work of three planners and have not taken a day off in months. I am close to burnout and do not see an end in sight.”

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