The Event Leaders Guide to Holiday Season Survival

For some, the appearance of holiday décor in the stores, party invitations in your mailbox, post office lineups and even the Salvation Army donation bell jingling outside of the grocery store can evoke feelings of despair instead of the holly jolly warmth of the holiday spirit.

It is a shame that as the holiday season settles upon us we sometimes find ourselves unable to simmer and enjoy the comforts of this special time of year.  Instead of being joyful and hopeful, we find ourselves feeling hopeless and fearful.

Most of us working in the meetings and events industry go full-boar right up until the last weekend before Santa’s sleigh takes flight.  It isn’t unusual for us to feel that there just isn’t enough time to put careful thought into the selection of gifts for our loved ones, or the writing of our annual year-in-review letters to our family and friends or to set aside enough time to peacefully put up and decorate our Christmas tree.  This leaves us feeling anxious, guilty and sometimes even a downright Grinchy.

Managing your stress and anxiety leading up to and during the holiday season can be challenging.  Take a proactive approach to managing your stress and anxiety by using many of your skills you use every day in your role as an event leader:  

Unplug and Delegate – At Home and At Work!

Yes, Event Leaders are known to have super powers.  By nature of our chosen trade we have the wherewithal to make things happen under the tightest of deadlines in the most challenging of situations.  

During the holidays get an early start on a helpful New Year’s resolution to exercise delegation.  Although we don’t have an army of elves at our beck and call, we can let go of some tasks and rely more on our staff, co-workers, friends and family so we can prioritize and make time to recharge over the holidays.

Some great examples of how you can delegate and get to the egg-nog sooner include (but are not limited too):

  • Turn off your devices.  Again, another task that is much easier said than done.  If it is impossible to completely disconnect from your work, at the very least you should limit how often you check your emails or voice mail each day.  Allocate a certain amount of time and choose a time of day where this will be the least disruptive.
  • If possible, ensure minimal office coverage over the holidays so you can relax knowing the phones are being answered.  For small business you can employ an answering service to forward only important calls or simply update your voice mail to let your customers or clients know your availability over the holidays.
  • Preparing all the food for your holiday gatherings can be stressful and expensive.  If appropriate, ask your guests to contribute to menu or bring an item for the buffet.

Make a List and Check it Twice

It may sound onerous but similar to grocery shopping on an empty stomach, which can lead to a grocery cart full of unrequired items, you should not go holiday shopping without a list.  

  • Your list should include everyone and everything you need to think about over the holidays.  Think about who you need to buy a gift for; from your dog-walker, teacher or soccer coach to your Grandmother.  If you make a list this will alleviate the unintentional omission of a special someone that can often lead to a last minute dash to the store on Christmas Eve or on your way to an event.
  • Think ahead to events you are invited to that may be potluck or require a hostess gift so that you can shop ahead for these items too or at the very least put some thought into what you would like to bring.
  • A budget!  The key to not overspending which can add to anxiety as we lose control of the amount of money we are “tapping” away on our debit and credit cards and the thought of the January credit card bill creeps into our heads.
  • Shop online.  If the mere thought brick and mortar shopping causes you to break into a cold sweat sitting at home in the comfort of your own home is always an option. 
  • Time! Time is your best friend when it comes to holiday shopping.  You need to have time to park (find a parking spot), time to wait at the cash, time to wade through the mall filled to the rim with holiday shoppers.  Without time you will undoubtedly find yourself anxious and frustrated with long line ups and what may seem like an eternity searching for a parking spot.

Give Up the Mind Movie

Keep it simple! We all know that even the best planned event will have some minor hiccups.  As experienced Event Leaders, we know that it is not about never having anything go wrong, it’s about how we respond to “hiccups” that really matter. So take some pressure off yourself. Lower your expectations.  Let go of the need to orchestrate the idyllic Christmas celebrations complete with moonlight snowshoeing, Christmas caroling with your neighbours, and Santa’s magical arrival and placement of perfectly wrapped gifts under the tree.  Much like an event we plan in our professional world, variable elements such as health or weather can change unexpectedly leading to a last minute change of plans or cancellation.

Often times the disappointment we feel when our epic plans fail or fall short, we are left feeling slightly down or even blue.  Perhaps just staying home and baking cookies or cuddling up to watch a movie can be just as fulfilling. 

Kick FOMO to the Curb!

“Fear of missing out” or FOMO is a huge challenge for our society and can make it difficult to prioritize the people and events that are really important to us.  Saying “no” is definitely easier said than done, but in my experience declining invitations that don’t work with your schedule or conflict with another invitation, can be liberating, empowering and in some cases the most effective way to reduce anxiety and free-up much needed head-space and time to just let the day come upon us.  Kick FOMO to the curb and you may be pleasantly surprised how relaxed you will find yourself enjoying the festivities and activities you do attend.

So don’t be haunted by the ghost of Christmas past – the key to holiday survival is not unlike the planning and execution of a complex event.  So this holiday season, get a head start on your New Year’s resolution and get the upper hand on anxiety and stress but prioritizing, planning and letting go of some minutia! YOU GOT THIS! 

Heidi Hughes

Director, Sales & Marketing, Anvil Centre | President Elect, MPI BC Chapter

A 20-year hospitality sales and marketing professional, Heidi honed her skills working for some of the best hotels chains in the world, including Hyatt Regency, Marriott and Hilton. After almost a decade in conference and convention hotels, she spent several years as Manager, Events and Conference at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) before coming to Anvil Centre as Director, Sales and Marketing. Energetic and positive, her career has evolved from hospitality management, sales and marketing to include event management. Her devotion to being a contributing member of a growing and evolving industry that is continuously setting new and higher standards for best practices is echoed in her extra- curricular work and activities. Heidi is a former Instructor at both the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Art Institute of Vancouver and is highly active with Meeting Professionals International on both a local chapter and International Level. 

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