Stress Management For Event Planners
This transcript is from Episode 41 of The Savvy Event Planner Podcast
To listen to this podcast, please visit: http://SavvyEventPodcast.com/41
Interview only transcript
Tom: Folks, I'm on the line with Kristin Brown today. Kristin, you've been on Live with Kelley and Michael. You've been on HNL, or HLN, I'm sorry. You've been on all kinds of shows. And now, the Savvy Event Planner Podcast. You can retire happy.
Kristen: This is the best one of all of those because I'm interviewing with you.
Tom: Would you do me a favor and start out by telling our listeners a little bit more about yourself and how you evolved into a speaker for events?
Kristen: Sure. Well, I was in corporate America, just the traditional corporate world for 15 years. And I was in leadership roles and managed teams and traveled all over the world and was in that nine to five rat race. And life was good. But I had a personal tragedy happen about eight and a half years ago. I was unexpectedly widowed while in a really high-pressure corporate job. We had a new baby, we had a dog and a house. And it was an unexpected setback. I was 31 years old and losing my husband so young really shifted my perspective on the way that I wanted to live my life and how I wanted to help other people live theirs. And that didn't happen right away. I stayed in corporate for a couple more years after that figuring out what I needed to be happy and what I wanted to do for my daughter to be a role model for her.
And in the process, discovered that there were some things that really benefited me in the workplace. And I used that to just evolve into what I do today in helping people, no matter what role they're in in the work world, I really help them now to say, okay. Even when life is busy, even when you don't have enough time, even when something bad happens, how can you still be a leader? How can you make that sale? How can you still be productive and engaged in your work even when life may not be ideal at any given time? So in a nutshell, that's how it evolved. Kind of a bittersweet story, but now I just, I love being able to share my message, share my stories, and help people love their jobs every day.
Tom: I don't know how to respond to that. I can just image the pain you went through and I know it happened several….how many years ago was that?
Kristen: Almost nine.
Tom: Almost nine. And I'm sure that it hurts to this day. That's just a horrible tragedy for anyone to go through. So my condolences there. I’ve got to ask you, though, you're known now for helping professionals minimize their stress with something called the Happy Hour Effect. Can you tell me a little about that or do I get to go out and have a couple drinks before I start? What is the Happy Hour Effect?
Kristen: So ‘Happy Hour' is a place where there is a spectrum of behavior, right? And if you're on the right end of that spectrum where you're really being your best self, you're engaging with others, you're hanging out with human beings and looking them in the eye instead of into your cell phone or computer screen. You're sharing ideas, you're passionate about what you're talking about; that's the right end of the spectrum of Happy Hour. So how can you harness those positive mindset, physical, biological shifts that happen during that time and use those in your daily life, both at work and at home? When I was in corporate, Happy Hour was a regular occurrence. And after I lost my husband I couldn't go as often because I didn't have care nor did I feel like attending a happy hour. But I knew it wasn't related the alcohol because I could have drank at home if I needed to. So the Happy Hour Effect is really a state of mind. It's a mindset shift that you can harness whether you're at work or whether you're at home.
Tom: Now is that why more business tends to take place at a happy hour or social gathering than it does in the office sometimes?
Kristen: Yeah, that is totally the case, because there's just a way that we step into our true authentic selves when we let down that guard. And again, unrelated to alcohol, it's really about being who you want to be, letting go of that facade that we sometimes feel like we have to have in the workplace. Being your true personality, not feeling like you have to be super aggressive or super laid back or anything besides who you truly really are. And that's when you really connect with other human beings, is when you find that deeper connection point. And when you are best self you are going to connect with the right people and the right people are gong to connect back with you.
Tom: Now, if there is somebody who is say out at a social gathering and they're maybe not comfortable letting down that facade is there any recommendations you could make to help them relax in that setting? Because I'll give you an example, I know that in some situations I may not want to expose certain parts of myself to someone for fear that they might look at me differently.
Kristen: Yeah, it's…you know, when I say being your authentic self that doesn't mean revealing what you had for breakfast or that you had some painful thing in your past. When you are your authentic self, you're finding a connection point with someone else that makes you able to bridge the gap. For me, I'm an extreme introvert. People can't believe that because I'm a professional speaker for big conferences. So they're like, “How can you be an introvert?” But you send me into one of those settings like you just mentioned, into a networking event or anything like that, and I freeze up. So how can you, when you're speaking with someone, find something that is a safe topic that you can chat about? And for a lot of people, it's their kids, it's a hobby, it's their dogs. I had a boss once and we were exact opposites. We knew it, we never spoke it, but we just always had friction because we were just very, very different. But we both had dogs and that always was the start of our meetings. We would talk about our dogs and it just broke the ice and we were able to get down to business. So you have to find that connection point that feels safe really for both of you.
Tom: Now part of the Happy Hour Effect is the reduction of stress. And everybody suffers stress at some point or another. In your speech, I know you share some examples of stress. Could you, would you mind sharing those with our audience? Let them listen to what…give them some insights?
Kristen: Yeah. Well, I wouldn't say it's about the reduction of stress. It's about how to integrate your work and life so that even when you are stressed you can still keep moving forward. Because there are so many times in our lives where we have a bad boss, or you have a health problem, or money gets tight, or you're dealing with something from your past, something painful. Or even just the small little stressors of going to work and getting stuck in traffic. Those things can really take you down when they build up over time. And so those things aren't going to just go away. You can't just reduce them and make them disappear. But you can create different things in your life so that even though those things are in existence, they are real, they aren't going away, you can still create happiness and success. You can still be a leader, you can still do really well in your job, you can still have great relationships despite the stress. So stress can really come from anywhere and everybody is different in how they experience stress and how they respond to stress. But really the key is to know what your stress cues are, those things that set you off, and what your stress cures are. And if you want me to talk about that I certainly can.
Tom: Yeah I certainly would love you to because I don't want to be left hanging.
Kristen: So I think about this. I speak to a lot of event planners. And that's one of the most stressful jobs that there is. It's actually ranked in the top ten of most stressful jobs in many, many different high-stress job surveys out there. And in the event planners that I have spoken to and interviewed, it really comes down to just the inconsistent use of their time. Because they never know when a fire is going to pop up. They don't know when a vendor, a caterer, a client is going to come back and totally throw the entire meeting plan totally off. And so in that case, knowing the cues that are potential for them–so it might be a caterer, it might be a vendor–but having that perspective of what they could be so you're prepared should they happen. And then once you have that and you're grounded in that, saying okay. I know that there is the potential for any of these 5 or 500 things happening. But I know that if I build in my stress cures anytime that those have a potential for happening, my body and my brain are going to benefit.
Because when you're stressed your body kicks out all kinds of stress chemicals. So those chemicals can actually circulate and harm your body and do damage to your body and brain. When you do things that make you happy, that make you laugh, that bring a smile to your face, your body floods with feel-good chemicals. Oxytocin, endorphins. And those, even though the stress won't go away, will change your brain's patterns and behaviors and perceptions of the stressors that are happening. So when you have those tough days, when you're just overloaded, you don't have enough time, that is the time when it is critical that you build in the things that you love to do. It could be a walk around the block, maybe it's spending time with your kids, maybe it's going on date night, maybe it's going to get a massage. Maybe it's just one minute watching a funny cat video on YouTube. But the days when you feel like you don't have time to do something for yourself are the days you MUST do something for yourself because it will counteract that stress.
Tom: Okay, so now let's say you're in the car. You were talking about traffic earlier. And I know this is a little bit removed from event planning but if you're driving to an event and you're hitting traffic and you're stressed out, is there a stress cure you can do in the car?
Kristen: Oh, I have so many things that I love to tell people to do in the car. You have to turn your car into a little mini haven, a little mini spa, a little mini place of escape. Because we spend a lot of hours in the car. Whether you're commuting to and from work, whether you have kids that you're shuttling around, whether you're driving to the grocery store regularly, we spend a lot of time in the car for most people. And that car can really become a place where you transition. So if you've had a rough day at work and you're going home, you don't want to bring that rough day at work home with you because then you ruin the night for everybody if you go home cranky, tired, and snappy. So use your car as that transition time. Vice versa, like for me, my daughter who is nine is a little bit of a demon in the morning. She is not a morning person. So after I drop her off at school and I'm going to my office, I have to use my car as a little transition time in the opposite way as well so that when I get to the office I'm not dragging that stress of the morning with me.
So some things I like to tell people to do in the car is obviously your favorite music, podcasts like this one are amazing to listen to. You can listen to things on personal development, professional development, learning new skills, learning new languages. They're my absolute favorite thing in the car. Have a little treat. Maybe it's dark chocolate. Maybe you like…I like sunflower seeds because of the salt. Have a little treat that you can have that's just something you look forward to when you're in the car. I even recommend to people, especially women who are uncomfortable or high heel shoes, have a little pair of driving slippers in the car. Those little fur-lined moccasins. I mean, it will change the way that you feel when you get in the car. And you can slip those shoes off and just, ahh. So really make that car a haven for yourself instead of a place that you dread being.
Tom: I love that advice. And a couple of those you could use anywhere. I'm a sunflower seed fan myself. So kudos. Let's move on here. So we've got some tips here to cure the stress, to kind of manage it, to get our minds off of that. And somewhere in, and if I go out of order here I apologize, but somewhere in your notes I read something about work balance…work and life balance is kind of a myth. Can you explain that to us?
Kristen: Oh yes. I can't tell you how frustrated I get when I in January see the cover of every magazine in the supermarket that says ‘The work-life balance solution'. Or when I see episodes of Dr. Oz, or when I see Oprah talking about ‘work-life balance is the best thing ever'. Because when you hear the term work-life balance, it makes it feel like things should be 50% work, 50% life. And you just have to fit everything into one or the other. But it's all just life. Work is life. When you're at home and you've got something going on, you can bring it to the workplace and vice versa. It's all so intimately connected. That word balance really angers me so, so much. I like to tell people to ditch that term balance. And instead, use the vision of a conductor of an orchestra who has to juggle and conduct many, many instruments. He has to stand up there and he has to say, ok, french horn, you're up now. Okay, percussion, louder, louder. Everyone all together now, fast, soft, slow, loud, fast, fast, faster. Okay, flutes, you're up. Okay, horns, you're up. Okay, now french horns, you're down. And from moment to moment he's deciding which instruments play when, how fast, how slowly, how loudly. Our lives are a lot like that. We are also conducting many, many things all at once, both work and home related.
So as the conductor of your own life, you have to cultivate what I call the Maestro Mindset. Where you say, okay, you know, not everything is going to take center stage all the time, nor does it have to. But just because something isn't taking center stage at the moment, doesn't mean that it is not important. Doesn't mean that the flute is less important than the french horn if the flute is quiet for a few minutes and the french horn is really loud. It just means that everything was playing together to make everything more beautiful. And you as the conductor decide what's rising to the top and taking center stage at any given moment. So that's really, instead of the term work-life balance, ditch that term balance and instead think about your life in terms of a conductor. Work-life harmony, work-life integration, any other word but balance.
Tom: Okay. Now one of the things I know you do when you're talking to people in a meeting, you talk and help them develop a customized life map. Could you share a little bit about how somebody would go about that?
Kristen: Yes so the power of the life map is that it's literally a visual brain dump of everything that you juggle of every day, every week. every month, every year, even things that are really long term goals. And when you do that by getting everything out of your brain and onto a piece of paper, you're able to make better decisions. It almost acts as your sheet music. Just like the conductor has to have his score, his sheet music to say what instruments play when, how loudly, how softly, how fast, how slow, you need that for your own life too. So you can decide, okay. There's literally a hundred things on my life map that I have to figure out how to fit into my 7 day, 24 hour a day week. How can I make the best use of my time and what is really most important and critical for me to focus on right now?
And once you get everything our of your brain and onto that piece of paper, you're acknowledging that yes, these are the things I've got going. Even the hard tough stuff that maybe happened in your past but is still affecting you now. Maybe big dreams. We put work and money on that map. We look at the core life elements that you have that you really need to be part of your everyday life to make it feel amazing, to make it feel really powerful. And then we look at just the day to day, what I call the stuff. The stuff that fills up your calendar, the stuff that fills up to your to-do list. Because a lot of us, we get guilted into doing a lot of things. We do it because we think someone expects us to, we think we're doing it because we're keeping up with the Jones'.
And when you really look at your life map and all the things that you're filling your time and life with, you often realize that, oh man, this one thing I'm doing because someone expects me to, I really don't want to. It's dragging me down, it's sucking my energy, it's making me crabby, it's causing a ripple effect across other things in my life. And once it's down visual on that piece of paper, it really all becomes clear. And everyone's life maps are a little different. And they walk out with this massive clarity around exactly what they need to do. Not just for stress but really for their life goals, for their relationships, for what they want their life to feel like when they wake up in the morning, what they want to feel like when they go to bed at night. It is really crafting the life that they envision for yourself.
And then tied to that I also have another tool call the work map that you do with your work team. And your work team works together to complete the work map both individually and as a group to say okay, what's happening in the workplace? Where are our goals headed? What's some of the initiatives? What meetings do we have? Who's work does my work impact? Who's work impacts me? So when you use those two together, if you have a lot that are really feeling intertwined both personally and professionally, it really becomes just a huge eye opener and life changer for people.
Tom: Okay. Now I have another question for you. Again, this might be out of context but something really caught my attention on one of the pages talking about your speaking. And you drive results by uncovering someone's unique rise code. I'm curious, what is a rise code?
Kristen: Yes, well there is something deep within all of us that tells us or allows us to either rise during stress or kind of collapse into ourselves during stress. And we all know people that they've gone through something tough in their lives and they rise from the ashes and they do something amazing and great. And we also know those people that they get stuck in traffic and it ruins their entire week. And that's what a lot of people would call resilience, and that's really a critical piece of what the rise code is all about. Because the rise code breaks down what you personally need to be a riser, to be the person that can rise from the ashes when you're going through tough stuff.
So just really briefly, rise stands for results. So are you getting the things done in your life that you want to accomplish, both at work and at home? The I in rise stands for intensity. How densely are you packing your time? How much are you working? How much time are you giving yourself for pampering and breathing room? How much time are you spending with your family? So intensity is how densely you fill your life up. The S in rise is for stability. Do you feel safe and secure in your job, in your relationships, in your home, in your parenting skills, in you finances? And then the final E in rise is engagement. And engagement is do you love what you're doing from any given time moment to moment? Do you love what you're doing at work? When you're at home, are you loving your home environment? Are you loving your relationships? And those four things, results, intensity, stability, and engagement add up to your rise code. And then the final R, if you become a riser, R-I-S-E-R, that final R is resilience. You need that resilience internally, externally, to pull yourself up. It's no one else's job to pull you out of the tough stuff. It's your own job. And when you can have those first four things in line, and you've got resilience, you're going to be a riser even during the worst stresses in your life.
Tom: Okay, thank you very much for sharing that. I'm getting a lot of great insights here today. I hope our listeners are as well. I'm going to take us away from this. We'll come back in just a few minutes. But every one of my guests attends events. Either as a planner or as a speaker or in some other role. And I think anybody who has ever done an event has come across a horror story. Something they just go oh my gosh, I can't believe that happened. Or that's totally wrong, I never want to do that again. As you think about the events you have attended without naming anything specific, is there an event in your mind where something just didn't work right or went wrong? And if so, would you share what it was and how you dealt with it or how you benefited by learning? I'm starting that again…oh man, forget that.. Okay, yeah. You've got the question. Let's see what you can say.
Kristen: Yeah. I feel like every event has some little hiccup, whether it's from my side or whether it's from the events side, or from someone in the audience side. I feel like there is always something. But I think it really goes back to the fact that we are all human. And stupid things happen to all of us. Bad things happen to all of us.
Tom: Like that question?
Kristen: Like that question. No, that question was great. But I think it's learning to roll with the punches and having a backup plan for everything. I'll give you…when I go to speak somewhere I bring my laptop, I bring a USB backup of the presentation if I'm doing a PowerPoint. Sometimes I don't use a PowerPoint. But if I do I have a backup. And I have a backup of the handouts on a USB, I have it in my Dropbox so that I can access it if the USB for some reason fails. I've already sent it to the event planner. I've got like five ways that I can access anything that I might need for those event planners. I also be sure that I arrive early so that anything that the event planner might need that I can ease their stress because they're usually running around like crazy. They don't have time to deal with anything I've got going on. So I really try to ease their stress while I'm there and be super easy. I can set up my own table. I can get my own water. I don't need a whole bunch of hand holding. So I think it is really about managing your own role in any situation that you're in and not expecting someone else to be responsible for you if that makes sense. Just always have your own backup plan.
Tom: Yeah, that makes great sense, and I 100% agree with you on that. Now everybody has been to an amazing event. It might not be one you have worked, it might be one you've attended. It could be in any genre whether it's a meeting or a wedding or a…any type of event. Is there an event that stands out in your mind that was just, in your opinion, over the top? And can you tell us what made you feel that way about it?
Kristen: Oh gosh…do you want me to name the actual event?
Tom: Only if you want to.
Kristen: It's a meeting planner industry event. It is called SpinCon, so it's through Spin Planners. And I spoke at their event last fall. I was the opening keynote and the closing keynote. And it was top notch from beginning to the end, from the moment I arrived to the moment I left. And not for me personally. For me personally, it was great. But the way that they had the event laid out, the food, the activities, the engagement, the way they built in networking, the breakout sessions. If I do say so myself the keynote speaker was great…that was me. But just the whole event was, was phenomenal. So I don't work for them or anything but if you're an event planner and you want an amazing group to belong to, Spin Planners, that's a group for you. It was an amazing event, SpinCon.
Tom: That's fantastic. In fact, Shawna is a guest that's on the podcast. And right off the top of my head, I can't remember what episode, but she is, I think the president of Spin right now?
Kristen: Yup, Shawna. And yup, she's awesome.
Tom: So you say there was the food. What about this? Can we dig down a little deeper? Was there something specific about the way they did the networking that stood out? Or was it something specific about…other than the fact than it was great food? Do you see where I'm going?
Kristen: Yeah, I think it was the consistency of their messaging. So their theme was just infused everywhere, the Spin Planners theme, that they were there to support each other. But also it was very inclusive, So whether you were an introvert, an extrovert, new to the group, had been going for many years, they made it so comfortable and easy to engage. And me as an introvert, and not as a meeting planner, me as the speaker kind of being that outsider, I never once during that whole few days I was there felt like I shouldn't belong there. It was just a very inclusive, supportive, engaged community with events that allowed you to get involved without feeling like you were kind of being that person who was crashing a party if that makes sense.
Tom: It most certainly does. And I think that you just basically bottled the essence of what an amazing event has to be. It has to include the people. And when you're included and when you feel like you're a part of it just, you, it's just amazing.
Kristen: It was magical, I'll tell you.
Tom: So I'll try not to do one of those horrible questions like I asked you last time.
Kristen: Hey I'm ready for it, I'm ready for it.
Tom: I'm human folks. So let me, let's go back to your topics. We're talking with the event planners. Is there any actions steps or last thoughts that you'd like to share with them that they could maybe incorporate to get moving today?
Kristen: Yeah, well you can do the little life mapping activity on a piece of notebook paper right now. You can just go and start downloading all of the things that you juggle every day, every week, every month, every year even. Get it down on paper. And then circle the things that you love to do that bring you energy. Circle the top three or four. Then X out the top three or four that bring you the most anxiety, worry, stress. That immediately bring focus to everything that you're doing so you know that if you want to make changes, if you what to shift anything around, those things you X'ed and circled are the first places to focus. Then once you've done that, give yourself one week and say in the next week, what one thing can I do based on the things I just X'ed and circled on this little mini life map you create? And start every week doing one thing to work on your X's and O's.
Tom: Excellent. Now Kristen, in the event somebody would like to learn a bit more about what you do, and I know you have a podcast, correct?
Kristen: Yes, I have a podcast called the Happy Hour Effect. You can find it on iTunes or you can go on my website. My website is kristenbrownpresents.com. You can learn all about me. You can check out the podcast. You can see my latest articles in media. Eventually, this podcast will be on there. You can link to that. So yeah, go to Kristen Brown Presents. And there you'll find everything you want to know and more.
Tom: Fantastic. Well, Kristin like I say, you opened my eyes to a lot of things. I'm going to go create my life map right now.
Kristen: Awesome. Let me know how it goes.
Tom: I'll probably fall asleep. I live such an exciting life. But folks, I do appreciate Kristen being on the show today. Kristin, again, thank you for your time.
Kristen: Thanks, Tom.
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