It’s about damn time.
After decades of suffering in silence, our industry is finally coming together to have a conversation that is long overdue. One of the largest and most-needed topics in our meetings and events industry right now isn’t about how we plan events, or how to master event tech, or even how we predict the upcoming trends around adult education.
The big topic is mental health, and how we can support one another in our fight to reclaim time, sanity, and white space in our work and careers. The elephant in the room that sat quietly in the corner is now taking centre stage as our professionals are finally fed up with working 24/7 and having very little left in the tank at the end of the day.
Multiple reports cite that meeting professionals have one of the world’s most stressful jobs. One of the biggest byproducts of our busy roles is burnout. While I wish the “Great Pause” gave planners the much-needed break they deserved, for many the opposite happened. Some planners were left scrambling to learn new skills and throw virtual meetings together at the drop of a hat. Some were dismissed from their roles and forced to make some tough decisions about their next career stop. Some chose to reinvent, adding to the stress of starting new businesses and rebuilding their career path.
For all of us, the more daunting task, and (the one we are just starting to talk about now) is redefining an industry where working 24/7, on weekends, at the expense of our physical and mental health is commonplace. Slowly, we’re starting to see movement towards taking our role off the “most stressful jobs” list and shedding the overworked badge of honour in lieu of a more balanced and healthier lifestyle.
For some of us, the mental health conversation comes around the rebrand and pivot we’ve experienced over the past two years. Daring to learn something new creates feelings of inadequacy and imposter syndrome. When left unchecked, these harmful thoughts can be debilitating, leaving one in a spiral of negativity.
Thankfully, professional associations like MPI and PCMA are devoting article space, in-person sessions, and online education to help professionals recognize the signs of overwork, and create support systems and strategies to combat burnout. Private organizations like Event Minds Matter are also creating conversations and inviting stories from the industry. This group of industry volunteers’ grassroots efforts includes a robust LinkedIn page and collaborations including the upcoming November 2nd MPI TalkFest Braindate. All topics are centered around mental health, burnout, and stress management.
Our industry friends are also sharing their stories of recognition, coping and redirection – whether through their social media storytelling or on stages at virtual and in-person events across the country. We’re redefining client expectations, setting boundaries around our schedules and saying no to projects that do not light us up.
But here is where we need to be very careful and tread very lightly. This badge-of-honour of being “on” until exhaustion is a hard thing to give up. How many of us find ourselves BACK on “back-to-back-to-back” business trips this season, attending every single industry (and non-industry) conference we can? Did we learn nothing from the Great Pause about the value of having some downtime?
I know I’m guilty as charged! No one forced me this season to fill my calendar to the brim with flights and hotel room nights. A conversation I desperately need to have is around how to set those healthy boundaries, and reduce the FOMO creeping into my life if I don’t say “yes” to everything.
For myself, and countless others, the conversation we need to have has started. I know I still have a long ways to go before I feel I’ve mastered the new skillsets around time management, health management, and carving out white space in my life, but I’m willing to start. I’m willing to take a critical look at how I view my passion and purpose in an industry I truly love, and create a work environment that supports my creativity and my mental health. I may have owned the badge of honour during my career, but I’m ready to give it back in lieu of some downtime and a thoughtful cup of tea.
Are you ready to do the same?
Leanne Calderwood, CMP, is a branding and LinkedIn trainer for the meetings, events, and hospitality industry. She believes our industry is built on experiences, and that experience should start with our professionals.
She serves hospitality professionals and teams through her online courses and consulting services to help guide #eventprofs out of the shadows and into the spotlight using their branding strengths and stories.
When she’s not talking shop, you can find Leanne drinking tea, making jam, and gardening at her home in Kelowna, B.C. with her husband, two teenage sons, and her dog, Farls Barkley.
You can learn more about Leanne over on her blog at www.leannecalderwood.com