event planning

Using What You've Got

It's the biggest day of your life with only a few hours to spare before the project/performance/event/test that will define your life and career for the foreseeable future. And all of a sudden the bottom drops out. You lost your main investor, your voice is too shot to sing the solo or the zombie apocalypse inconveniently starts right before you take the stage. Whatever's happening, it's not good and you are starting to panic. Adrenaline courses through your body and your brain starts screaming that everything is falling down around you and it's just not going to work.

This might not be ideal for most people, but with the right kind of mindset this is a pretty great place to find yourself.

I'm a planner (sometimes obsessively so), but I am constantly working to incorporate and appreciate the unexpected into my life and my projects. When everything is known before it happens, life becomes a dull and drab march towards the inevitable (if you don't believe me, read a variety of philosophical and fictional works on the necessity of free will and the harshness of predetermined life). When surprise drops in on us, it's up to us whether we swing into contingency plans and improvisation or if we panic and crumble.

While it can seem appealing to fall apart when things get rough, it's so much more important to feel that panic and then let it go. Emotions are important and key to our shared humanity. But emotions can also hold you captive and force you to act without rational thought. When things start to go south and that dreadful, creeping feeling of failure comes upon you, it's important to remember that you should feel it -- but you shouldn't let it control you.   

When panic sets in, feel it and learn from it. Diagnose the pain point that pushed the adrenaline into your system, harness the nervous energy that's running through your veins and make your fear work for you. Your fear is important and instinctual. Your fear is telling you something key that you might be overlooking. But fear isn't smart. Fear is indiscriminate and it will cripple you if you let it. When panic sets in, feel it and then let it wash through you.

After your panic washes through you, take a look at what's happening. If you're lucky, the insurmountable from a moment ago is suddenly just an opportunity to grow and change with the times. You had a backup of that irreplaceable item, or someone can pull double duty behind the scenes. It's not always that simple to fix a plan that starts to pull apart at the seams, but it doesn't need to be if you accept that you might have to adjust things on the fly and that the unexpected breathes new life into the staid.

The most important thing you can do to be successful in the face of the unexpected, in my opinion at least, is to always think ahead and build out contingencies when you can. You aren't planning for the exact thing that could go wrong, but you are preparing yourself for the idea of change. You are practicing and building a process where things can evolve with their surroundings to stay fresh and relevant. It might seem counterintuitive, but a good plan always includes the idea of "going with the flow" so that you don't trap yourself in panic when your world rapidly changes. 

Nothing fun or important or innovative ever came from staying in your comfort zone, which are easy words to say and exhilarating words to live by.   

Taking a Leap

Being comfortable is great. It’s awesome knowing what’s expected of you and knowing that you can deliver. Everything is doable and nothing is particularly scary because it’s all something that you’ve done before. On top of that, you have a support network – be it at work, in your personal life or from your curling league (or whatever activity or hobby you prefer).


That’s all great. It’s also boring, potentially suffocating and probably not a great space for learning or improving yourself in any major way.


I’m taking a lot of leaps in a lot of different ways in the next month. I’m changing jobs, changing states and changing marital statuses to embark on a new life with my partner. I also sold my house and finished graduate school. To say that the past few months have been eventful would be an understatement.


Freaking out over the change would be easy. Deciding you can’t take it and didn’t ask for it and shouldn’t have to deal with it is easy and dishonest. It’ll also make you hate yourself in the end because when given a golden opportunity to change and grow, you decided to complain and shrink.


Relinquishing control isn’t exactly what you need to do either, although it’s certainly appealing. Instead of leaving your life and the sudden changes up to luck, it’s important to take stock of what’s happening and what you can control. If something is within your power to positively change or affect – do it. If it’s something beyond what you can handle or take charge of, freak out for a minute, relax and move on.


In event planning, a lot of stuff can go wrong, from issues with food to terrible weather. Human beings can only fix so much, which makes it even more important to focus on what you can fix and let everything else sort itself out. If you spend all your energy screaming at the catering staff for bringing the wrong food, you won’t have time to fix the issue by running to the grocery store. Similarly, if you channel your inner King Lear and rage at the storm, you won’t have time to get tents or move the event indoors.


Move forward graciously and happily into the future – or at least fake it until you feel gracious and happy and stop feeling freaked out.