In what’s now become a widely shared statistic in the industry, “event coordinator” ranks as the fifth-most stressful job in America, right up there with police and firefighters.
While event planners don’t have to face quite the same risks as airline pilots or first responders, they nonetheless face a range of formidable challenges.
They compete for the dollars and attention of attendees, not just against other events, but against pretty much any other use of that time and those resources. They struggle to meet the needs of diverse audiences and stakeholders. They’re challenged to build and coordinate talented teams. And then of course there’s the travel, time away from home and family, the long days and the late nights.
The people who choose this professional do so out of their passion for it, and their endless fascination with it. When we asked 11 such professionals, most though not all members of the Women in Event Tech community, “What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work?”, we got all of those answers and more.
One of the top challenges for event professionals is time management, also described as work/life balance (by Tracy Fuller, below), a lack of “time to learn new technology or keep up” as Stephanie Salesnick puts it, or the difficulty of “juggling all of my duties, while putting aside time to think strategically” in the words of Corey Fennessy.
But the challenges most commonly cited by this group relate to a lack of understanding by others of what is involved in strategic, professional event planning. Shirley Craven cites her biggest challenge as working with people “who do not understand how complex the event management environment is.” Kahshanna Evans notes that smaller organizations sometimes have “unreasonable budget expectations that slow progress.”
And Christy Lamagna makes this challenge most clear in stating, “The biggest challenge event professionals face (not just me) is the fundamental misunderstanding of what we do. Knowing how to plan a party for friends or a wedding for your daughter is not the equivalent of being an event professional.”
Here are the full answers from this group.
Dahlia El Gazzar, Tech Evangelist / DAHLIA+ Agency:
My biggest challenge is the competition for attention from our attendees. There are so many different experiences that compete against our events, so how do we keep attendees coming, keep their attention, and keep them wanting more?
Corey Fennessy, Creative Director, DAHLIA + Agency:
Successfully juggling all of my duties, while putting aside time to think strategically and be creative. Still working on figuring that out…
Kahshanna Evans, Founder, Kissing Lions Public Relations:
I’ve managed projects and worked with niche brands, emerging and established influencers, and nascent products and services. The biggest challenges are time and budget. Smaller teams often have unique scheduling needs and a humble budget in comparison to what they aim to create which can sometimes be an obstacle.
While well-oiled corporate teams or non-profits roll out exceptional annual events and have the ability to flesh out budget based on A/B testing, online and offline activations, events, and launches can be consuming for startups or small businesses that become mired in creative distractions or unreasonable budget expectations that slow progress.
Stephanie Selesnick, President, International Trade Information, Inc.:
My biggest challenge is dealing with the lack of time to learn new technology or keep up.
Shirley Craven, SMMP Consultant and Managing Director, Curvebox Ltd
Biggest challenge? Working with people who do not understand how complex the event management environment is
Pauline Kwasniak, Founder, TurnedSee & Hotels4Meetings:
Travelling alone , being stressed that something will happen to me
Donella Muzik, Director, International Marketing and Outreach, AVIXA:
The right people being too busy at the time when real collaborative thinking is possible — people aren’t all in the same room at the same time, thinking in the same direction. This is getting harder and harder.
Christy Lamagna, CEO and Master Strategist, Strategic Meetings & Events:
The biggest challenge event professionals face (not just me) is the fundamental misunderstanding of what we do. Knowing how to plan a party for friends or a wedding for your daughter is not the equivalent of being an event professional any more than balancing your checkbook qualifies you to be a CFO.
Until those of us who are in the profession learn to plan strategically and turn events into tools that shorten sales cycles and drive revenue, we will be marginalized and misunderstood. We have to stop planning events and start strategically planning, not just events but our own professional future.
Marissa Pick, Founder and Digital Marketing Strategist, Marissa Pick Consulting LLC:
The biggest challenges I find in planning a strategy for an upcoming event is getting all of the information together within a timely manner to develop a proper event marketing strategy, loop in the right people, and keep the wider team updated regarding information we’re able to support each other.
The reality with events is it’s a bit of an evolving structure where things come together over time, sometimes quickly and sometimes painstakingly slow! Like other strategists I love a good lead time to work through all of the details and plan accordingly, but often that’s a dream and far from the reality.
It is exciting to watch it all come together however, and the beauty of what I do is the direct impact to see engagement and ROI from event attendees in real time which is still a rush to this day!
Paula Rowntree, Head of Events & Experience, The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP):
As an event professional working in the association sector, one of the biggest challenges I face is product diversification to meet the needs of a wide range of members. Increasing the member value proposition through our event offerings is paramount as it enriches the member experience.
This becomes a challenge when you are faced with some of the most diverse demographics associations have ever faced all with varying learning styles and needs.
My biggest challenge as an event pro is work/life balance. The event world happens when there are events. That means you have to be on site for two to five days at a time.
As a single mom, having a great team behind the scenes, that included wonderful friends and family, helped tremendously. Without this village of support, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I love.
Finding great team members for work was equally important, and aligning myself with professionals who produce great events has been key.