If you Google “the most stressful jobs in the world” you’ll find event planning in the top five. It’s no secret that this is a hard job, and we often look to other event organizers and business gurus for motivation and advice.
But have you ever thought about how other high-performance jobs in different fields compare?
Take Navy SEALs – about as far from event planning as you might get in the day-to-day, but their training and work regimen can teach applicable lessons in how to excel in our own kind of demanding environments.
From day-of preparation to recovering after the event, here’s a quick list of tips to take from Navy SEALs.
Before the Event
Set micro goals to accomplish macro tasks
In Navy SEAL Training Guide: Mental Toughness, Lars Draeger highlights that one of the reasons Navy SEALs have positive mindsets is their ability to transform a macro task into micro goals, to manage the stress and rigor of their training.
How about you?
Let’s say you have to address the event catering, which is a major task. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and delaying the work, set micro goals: decide what time you’ll need catering, determine the type of catering and how much of the budget you’re willing to use, create a list of potential suppliers, etc.
By doing so, you’ll know exactly what you need to do, and feel more prepared to start working towards the task.
Improve your mental toughness
There are multiple ways Navy SEALs train for mental toughness in the face of strict discipline and demanding physical training.
Obviously, as an event professional, you don’t need to prepare for the Iron Man! But daily exercise is one way to maintain a sharp mind and provides an outlet to cope with bad, stressful days.
As Eric Potterat, former head psychologist for the U.S. Navy SEALs, explains, the secret lies in controlling body’s arousal levels.
According to a Business Insider article, “You can kickstart the relaxation response through “tactical breathing,” or taking slow, deep breaths. It’s what Potterat calls the body’s “built-in brake system,” and it’s a way of convincing your body and mind that you’re relaxed instead of anxious, so that all those stress symptoms start to disappear.”
The next time something unexpected or stressful happens while planning the event, remember to use your body’s “brake system” and know that your mental and physical toughness will help take control over your reactions and the situation.
During the Event
Be flexible and adaptable
Navy SEALs plan to the best of their abilities, but they still prepare for the unpredictable. Being ready for anything and able to adapt to everything is essential for a successful operation.
From audiovisual issues to lack of attendee engagement, event planners are always faced with unpredictable situations.
What if your event workshop activities were scheduled for 6pm – but it’s 6:30pm and your keynote speaker is still eagerly answering audience questions? Identify what is dispensable: cut the first activity, announce that the speaker will be available by the snacks if people would like to continue discussing, and point the rest of the crowd in the right direction. Assuming that a schedule is set in stone is a big faux pas.
Always be aware of your guests’ needs and show a high degree of flexibility. Learn how to improvise and to act immediately.
Develop a killer work team dynamic
Navy SEALs rely on teamwork. According to Kotler and Wheal, there are no stable leaders in a group of Navy SEALs. The lack of hierarchy helps them move faster during an operation and develop a better “team” mindset to work together and achieve a goal.
As Kotler and Wheal note, “This ‘dynamic subordination,’ where leadership is fluid and defined by conditions on the ground, is the foundation of flipping the switch.” The authors continue, explaining, “With their minds and movements tightly linked, the entire team executes simultaneously, chunking and disarming without hesitation or error.”
Apply that same philosophy by letting team members handle some event situations that are under their control. If someone from your team is good at solving tech-related issues, delegate to him or her to lead the communication with the audiovisual assistant, signaling the needs and problems that may occur.
This will help you achieve a better team harmony, empower team members to take the control over the areas they know best, and ensure everything runs smoothly.
After the Event
Take time to recover
What do you usually do when an event ends? Do you just jump right into planning the next one? Or do you give yourself time to rest, recover, and reflect?
An essential part of a Navy SEAL’s career is learning how to recover after an intense training mission to ensure their ability to complete the next one. By setting aside time for recovery, they’re better able to maintain their physical and mental composition.
The same goes for event professionals. By truly taking care of yourself and resting, you can expect high performance and new energy boosts.
Combine that with the rest of these training tips, and you’ll have a whole new toolkit for your next event – and you don’t even need to jump out of a plane to put it into action.