I woke up at 6:30am ready and excited to start my day. It wasn’t just any other Saturday; no, this Saturday I was going to experience working on my first event out of college! I put on my makeup – way too dark for that early in the morning but perfect for an evening event – before I ran out the door to get to the office on time. I was five minutes late. Despite my obsessive need to always be on time, I refused to let that get to me. I started in on my to-do list and quickly got into the fast-paced flow of the day. As our whole team kept up the go-go-go spirit, I found myself thinking how smoothly everything was going and how I didn’t feel freaked out or anxious even as we got closer to the beginning of the event. All was going well until one of the guests became annoyed by their room reservation. Though I tried my best to stay calm and accommodating, nothing seemed to work. Before I knew it, I was being yelled at and spoken to so aggressively that I felt my skin heat up and start to tingle. Seemingly in a single moment, everything started to become overwhelming. I’m not really sure what specifically led to me crying in a corner of the venue – most likely, it was a succession of small mistakes and a verbal attack that I blew way out of proportion – but when one of our planners found me I must have looked like a mess. Good southern girls don’t ever look like a mess. She gave me a hug, made sure I was alright, and then took my phone to complete the phone call I had been trying to make a few minutes earlier. She assisted the guest and got the room sorted.
That’s when I realized something very important: while I make a pretty good office manager, I would make a terrible planner! I watched our planning team effortlessly execute the beautiful event as I tried to get my weepy self together. I was a little embarrassed by my lack of experience and my inability to diffuse the situation. I greatly admire the talent and grace that our planners possess. Watching our team work through mishaps with happy faces and confidence made me want to be more like them. I was motivated by their poise to pick myself up, smile at everyone as if nothing had happened, and continued to carry out my duties. I made it through the remainder of the evening tired and emotionally spent, but I made it through and I will always be proud of that. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that afterward I returned home to cry some more. I found my sweet boyfriend waiting with tea, prepared to listen to me dump my emotions onto him in the aftermath of the experience. He listened attentively, reminding me at appropriate times that it was my first event and I did my best, all while giving me a foot rub. (I told Preston that and he insisted I include that tidbit!)
My first event taught me much more than I could have ever expected it to. When you plan events on a college campus, I remember the biggest issues being whether or not the band was cool and fighting with administration on having an open bar for the (of age) students. The real world is a bit more complicated. My first event showed me that I have to be prepared for anything and be comfortable taking on any challenge on a very short deadline. The most important thing I learned was that nothing should be taken personally. I believe that this may be true in any company, but especially with events. You have to be thick skinned to be a planner; that’s something I am not, but I’m working on it with the help of an amazing and supportive team.
What is your best advice for someone just starting out?