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Top 10 Stress-Fighting Hacks for Event and Trade Show Planners

Did you know that meeting planners have one of the most stressful jobs in the nation as reported by business news daily. The meeting planner profession is listed fifth after military personnel, firefighter, airline pilot and police officer.


I believe it! I only have one or two trade shows per year. Yet it is the times before these shows that I get the most stressed. Below are some “hacks” or strategies that will help you not only beat your stress, but maybe channel that energy and eventually boost your productivity.
1. Do some breathing exercises every night before you to go to sleep
Research shows that keeping a bedtime routine facilitates good sleep. However, this is hard to do when you travel. Likely most of your routine is subject to change; your schedule is different, your room is different, your diet is different… you get the idea. While you can try to keep all of these as consistent as possible the one thing you can reliably control is having a routine about how you use your breath during bedtime. You’ve heard it before, in the face of stress and change you can always just BREATHE. One idea for breathing exercises from Prevention magazine is to exhale through your mouth, close your mouth and inhale through your nose, hold your breath for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 and repeat 3 times. This should settle you down and if you do it consistently at home and during travel it will help signal to your body that it is time to sleep.
2. Drink some herbal tea about an hour before you go to sleep
Bonus points for bringing your own when you travel. This way you will always have some on hand when all they offer in the plane or at the hotel is black tea. Just ask for some hot water and you are set! You can use the hotel coffee maker to make some or order it from room service if you were not able to stop at Starbucks. Herbal tea will help hydrate you after a busy day and you can get some that will actually help promote sleep like chamomile. My favorites are Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime and Yogi Bedtime (no they did not pay me to say that).
3. Take a walk outside if possible
In the morning it will help you set your circadian rhythm in a new time zone. You don’t have to go very far, a walk around the block once or twice is enough. In the afternoon it will help you de-stress and re-energize before going back to work and it is much healthier than that can of soda or candy bar you may be craving. In the evening it will help you relax after a long day and keep you away from email. During the summer months I like to get my kids and walk to the park almost every day. Most of the time they don’t want to do it, but once I get them outside they run ahead of me and I get a little quiet time.

4. Do some yoga in your hotel room
You don’t need a mat if you happen to be travelling just use your hotel towel. You can buy some of those funky sticky gloves and socks if you really want to avoid sliding around when you travel without a yoga mat. However, I usually don’t bother. I know people who are not familiar with yoga often think it entails contorting yourself into a pretzel and although you could do that as part of your practice it can just be doing some very simple moves for about 20 minutes. Medical Daily has a good article that shows some basic poses. Bonus points: Use your phone to play relaxing music or sounds, or use a meditation or yoga app on a regular basis.
5. Use a foam roller to rub against all those tight spots in your back
What? You forgot or don’t want to buy one? Go ahead and roll up a towel or use a tennis ball to use instead. You can also use the foam roller to do some ab work or probably more realistically prop up your legs while you are catching up on entertainment tonight in the hotel room.
6. Get a massage before and after your event
I know you think you don’t have the time or can’t afford it. However, consider that you can’t afford not to do it. Whether it is a professional massage at a spa, a nice backrub from your sweetie or just sitting on a massage chair at the airport, the health and stress-reducing benefits will pay off with a healthier and more efficient you. Mayo Clinic reports that massage benefits include “reducing stress, pain and muscle tension.” In fact they indicate that some studies found massage to be helpful for anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, insomnia related to stress and more. Check, check, check.
7. Do some meditation. I know it sounds a bit intimidating and time consuming, but…
You can meditate on your walk to the show floor instead of going over the list of everything that could go wrong. Concentrate on breathing in and breathing out evenly as you walk. You can meditate as you are waiting at the baggage claim rather than giving the dork in front of you who will not let you get your bag another dirty look. Breathe in, breathe out. Swimming at the hotel pool for half an hour can be a wonderful opportunity to meditate. I have heard that going for a run can be meditative. I am too busy catching my breath on the rare occasion that I run to meditate, but I do have to confess that I feel better afterwards.

8. Have some chocolate!
I know this could be dangerous, but work with me here. I don’t mean scarf down a whole bag of M&M’s. I mean buy a wonderful piece of Belgian or local chocolate from your favorite vendor and then make a special time to eat it, and enjoy it, slowly and mindfully. By this I mean, do not eat it while you are checking your email or texting your booth vendor. Instead, take the time to look at it, enjoy its aroma and then eat it. Slowly!

9. Have a beer with friends
I am really getting crazy now. Bear with me. There is ample research that social support can reduce stress. The national institute of health says “Numerous studies indicate social support is essential for maintaining physical and psychological health.” Sooo… I guess technically you don’t have to have a beer to reap the benefits. Wine or even lemonade will do as long as you have a chance to talk to friends and connect. If you are travelling you can take the opportunity to call your sister, best friend or shrink if things have gotten really out of hand.
10. Create something beautiful
Some people knit when they are stressed. I think that knitting can be a meditative activity. But part of the allure is making something beautiful that is one of a kind. You can take those stressful times, when you feel total lack of control from planning for a trade show, and use that energy to take a break from planning and make something tangible. Art can take your mind off your problems like few things can – whether it is a watercolor, knitting a scarf or designing something unique to display in your home or office. The project can give you a much needed breather and a sense of accomplishment that can be a lifesaver when there appears to be nothing but delays beyond your control at work. Also, according to an article by Entrepreneur Magazine taking breaks can make you more productive!

As you strive to manage your work stress with these “hacks” consider this. According to a study by Shawn Anchor, the author of the Happiness Advantage, you can use stress to your advantage. He argues in an article published in the Harvard Business Review entitled Make Stress Work for You that individuals can be trained to rethink stress and use it to improve their productivity and health. A lot of the negative effects of stress are balanced by positive effects, like creating mental toughness, improving memory and speeding up recovery. By recognizing that stress is going to be part of our daily lives and that it is something we can manage and even take advantage of, we can take a deep breath and tackle our next event planning meeting with a smile.

If you are worried about your next trade show or event consider requesting our ROI calculator  to help you prepare for it properly so you can take some time to relax and then measure your results.

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About the Author

Sofia is the Customer Engagement and Industry Relations Manager for Skyline Exhibits. An experienced marketing professional with branding, innovation and product commercialization expertise, she heads up Skyline’s marketing efforts in customer engagement, exhibitor education, industry relations and market research. Sofia has more than a decade of experience with both B2B and consumer packaged goods companies and an MBA from the University of Arizona Eller College of Management with an emphases in marketing and entrepreneurship. Sofia is fluent in Spanish having lived and studied in Latin America, and currently sits on the board of directors for the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa.

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