Mastering the Art of Multi-Tasking
By: Kurt Mungal
Picture this…it’s the early morning and you’re back onsite producing a large-scale conference after almost three, long years. Deep breaths—it’s good to be back!
As the lead planner, you’re ensuring all the sessions, speakers, and guests are supported, and running point between the venue, catering, and your tech crew to make certain that everything is running on schedule. Meanwhile, your Slack is blowing up with questions from the client, vendors for various other logistics are pinging you on WhatsApp, and the speakers’ bureau is calling to let you know that the keynote you finally booked at the eleventh-hour after weeks of wrangling? Yeah well, they got the time mixed up and now they have a conflict. And if you have any room left in your already-overcrowded brain to think about yourself (gasp!), you’re probably trying to stuff your face with some food since you haven’t eaten in over 10 hours and would rather not pass out on the job.
This is the life of an event planner, and for better for worse, it requires mastering the art of multi-tasking daily. It’s no wonder the job is listed as one of the most stressful jobs in the world.
But as with most things in life, if you love what you’re doing, and are fortunate enough to do it with a great team on your side like we are, even the toughest days can end with a smile. It also helps to have a developed fool-proof arsenal of tips and tricks that help you juggle the multitude of tasks at hand, all while keeping a calm and cool demeanor (imagine a duck, floating gently on the water, all the while paddling madly down below).
So, with our collective experience, our team has compiled a list of best practices when it comes to learning how to master the art of multi-tasking when planning your next event.
If you fail to plan, plan to fail…
Being organized is key!,. If you’re preparing for an event and you haven’t leveraged key planning tools such as your project scope, workback schedule, and budget, you may be headed toward hiccup town.. However, by starting with a solid planning foundation that you, your team and partners can all build from, you are setting yourself up for success.
That said, equally (if not more) important isn’t just developing these tools, it’s updating them regularly. Create sub-checklists and to-do lists under certain items in your workback, check-in with your teams and partners on progress, prioritize tasks that are falling behind, and even de-prioritize tasks that can wait until the more pressing items are completed.
Having the right tools and foundation leads to building a masterpiece.
Teamwork really does make the dream work…
The proverb is true “if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.”
Having a team you can trust and depend on is critical to the success of any event. The key word here is delegate. Each task you develop in your workback should not only have a team member assigned as the lead, but also a secondary team member assigned as their back-up. Not only does this ensure you have your bases covered, but it also relieves some of the pressure on your team to be able to take a sick day, go on vacation, or take a needed mental health break.
Most importantly, have a backup plan for unexpected or unplanned personnel changes (e.g. medical or family emergencies). We’ve all heard the saying, “what if I got hit by a bus tomorrow?” Of course, we’d all like to think the world would stop on our behalf—I mean, we did just get hit by a bus! But the truth is, the event waits for no one. Communicate early on the chain-of-command, how will tasks shift and rotate in case of emergency, and where everyone can find the most up-to-date, approved event plan that they can refer to and keep things moving.
Take care of you…
Planning an event is no joke. Sure, laughs are involved and putting on a smile when you greet your attendees at registration, but behind each smile is hours and hours of hard work, sleepless nights, and empty calories from stress-eating. But if the last three years have taught us anything, it’s that our health is our most valuable resource—both mentally and physically.
No matter how tense things may be leading up to (and during) live event days, the goal should be to always try to get a full night’s sleep. Turn off all screens one hour before bedtime and give your body the time it needs to rest and recover from the day. During the day: hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s so easy to forget to drink water when you’re running around all day putting out fires and getting those steps in, but your body and brain function at a more optimal level when hydrated. And sorry to be the one to tell you this, but coffee is not hydrating.
Finally, remember that you have a team. Don’t try to be everywhere at once, and don’t expect them to be either. Rotate breaks and mealtimes so that everyone has a chance to sit down and have something to eat so they can recharge for the next round.
Embrace the pivot…
Sometimes as planners it feels like someone threw a rubber ball inside the walls of our brain, and with each bounce, the ball activates a new topic or project we want (or need) to tackle. Bounce! Budget update. Bounce! Review swag. Bounce!Call the venue.
We’re constantly pivoting between tasks, and even clients, to keep everything running smoothly. Embrace it! Part of the thrill of planning events is that no two days look the same, and if it did, we probably wouldn’t be having very much fun. If you’re staying on top of the deadlines outlined in your workback (remembering to delegate, prioritize, and de-prioritize as needed) you should allow yourself the freedom to pivot between tasks to keep things fun, interesting, and challenging for yourself.
Know when to call it quits…
Events can be all-consuming. It’s easy to get carried away when it feels like you’re on a roll making progress with your tasks, or to get sucked into a task that suddenly takes way longer than it should. If it feels like you’re doing the latter and going down a rabbit hole on something that should be simple, take a step back or go for a walk to get perspective. Often experience will tell you what requires your full attention, but if you don’t know, ask. Sometimes someone who isn’t as in the weeds as you, or someone who’s a bit more senior than you, can help you see the big picture and determine where you should be zeroing in and where you should be letting go.
Once you’ve deciphered where you’re most needed, schedule focus time for yourself to get it done. Ideally this is a time where distractions are minimal. For example, do you work best at the top of the day before the day’s meetings and calls take over? Or are you better late afternoon once you’ve fueled up on caffeine and a snack? Also, what distractions can you turn off temporarily to allow yourself to stay on task? This is a good way to practise prioritizing the things that matter vs. the things that don’t.
Most importantly, after a hard day’s (or night’s) work, call it quits. You’ve earned it! And you’re not going to be very helpful to your teams or your clients if you’re burned out. Put in the time when it’s required, and set boundaries for yourself to rest, recharge, and do something fun just for you—even if that something…is nothing.
Celebrate your superpowers…
It’s no easy feat to take on one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Whether you’ve been in the industry for a month, a year, a decade, or this isn’t even your full time job and you’re taking on the responsibility at your organization, the fact that you can do what you do is worth celebrating.
It’s easy to get bogged down about all the things that maybe didn’t go exactly according to plan, but the world of live events isn’t about perfection, it’s about progress. Recognize yourself and your teams for their hard work and the successes and learn from the challenges with empathy and compassion.
Do you have any tips for mastering the art of multi-tasking? Tag us @loma_agency and to share them. If we can lend a hand, drop us a line at email@example.com.