In our survey of 175 planners, the second-greatest cause of stress for planners in the Covid era has been shifting responsibilities and skill requirements. On a five-point scale, with five being “creates high stress,” 66.3 percent of respondents rated this factor as a four or a five.
Tina Vickery, a conference director for show-management firm Hall-Erickson for the past 30 years, is among those planners. With four big shows to manage each year and up to 10 people on each show’s planning team, Vickery had to learn not just the inner workings of a few virtual-event platforms but also the ins and outs of several digital-collaboration tools she needed in order to work with those teams remotely.
“The advancements that were happening with all of those products—I couldn’t keep up with all of them,” she says. “Things were happening so fast that we were just trying to respond to all the client requests for virtual events, which was not something that we had done before.”
Because Vickery already had some background with logistics- and speaker-management software, it fell to her to assist colleagues in learning both the virtual platforms and the collaboration tools. “I became the go-to person, which came with a lot of extra stress. Everybody was looking to me for guidance, but I was still learning all the details too. And we still had events to do virtually.”
The good news is that “using online-collaboration tools has really been a godsend. It took a lot of practice for all of us to get used to them, but now it is so much easier to search for files and ideas our colleagues have created or modified.”
Another way that Vickery had to evolve in order to get by in the new environment: “Prior to the pandemic I was not good at delegating—handing things off and being able to give people direction and trusting that they’ll do it.”
Like many planners, one of the things Vickery feels makes her good at the job is “being organized and very focused on detail—being a perfectionist, basically. But the circumstances changed to where I had no choice but to look to other people and say, ‘This is what we need done; you’re doing this on my behalf and I’m putting my trust in you.’ That new structure, and the communication skills I needed to make it work, took a lot of effort to get right.”
In addition to all that, there’s another aspect of Vickery’s job that brings stress. “One team should not be running a simultaneous hybrid event,” she says. “If you’re going to have a virtual component at the same time as the in-person event, different teams should handle each segment. Planners have to explain that to their management and to their clients and make them understand that it’s really two different experiences that require each team to have specific skills.”
MeetingsNet’s Six-Part Report on Planners’ Sources of Stress and Their Coping Strategies: