Stress is Your Greatest Enemy at Your Event

This is the third in a series of posts about running a successful fundraising event night, written by event service professionals. Event service professionals help troubleshoot technology, advise on using event software, and ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible at auctions.

Take it from a seasoned event professional: besides adequate preparation, stress is your greatest barrier to event success. Feeling some anxiety during the crunch is unavoidable—because the one rule of events?

Something will always go wrong.

The key is to not let it take over. Letting your stress rule you can ruin necessary relationships and make tough times even harder for yourself. It may cause even more problems than it solves.

We, your event services professionals, know it’s a big day for you and your nonprofit.

And we know a lot rides on how well you schmooze with your donors, and how much money you raise. Event fundraising dictates a lot about the future budget. How much guests enjoy their experience this year is indicative of whether they’ll come back again next year.
This compounded pressure—of showing everyone a great time, and raising lots of money—leads a lot of event directors to stress themselves sick over making sure every donor’s individual needs are completely met and satisfied.

But that level of stress gets in the way of doing your best work.

While we like to think that stressing hard over every single detail will accomplish what we want, more often than not, stress accomplishes exactly the opposite.

Of course, sustained stress over time can cause damage to the mind and body. But the short-term symptoms are no joke, either. In the short term—for example, on the night of your event—extreme stress can cause the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue

All stuff that you probably want to avoid if your goal is to stay on your game and raise lots of money for your nonprofit.

And even worse? Stress and anxiety rubs off on others. If you are panicked and upset, staff and volunteers will sense it, even emulate it. It can spread like wildfire and cause peripheral damage where you hadn’t expected—or wanted.

So how do you avoid stressing out at your event?

 It’s a big night. You can’t avoid any and all stress. But after helping at dozens of events over the years, we have a couple tips here to help you try to mitigate and manage your stress effectively.

  1. Do as much in advance of your event as you can. Assign those bid numbers, print off your reports, get all guests into the system—that way you have one less thing to worry about during crunch time. (And there will be fewer surprises.)
  2. Set reasonable expectations for YOURSELF. We all want to be Superman, but it’s just not possible to be everywhere at once. Grant yourself the same compassion you’d grant to a volunteer or colleague. Only set out to do what’s possible, and don’t punish yourself if you’re not perfect.
  3. Paste on a smile, even if you don’t feel it. I know it’s harder than it sounds, but putting on a happy face will help you get your job done even when you’re feeling miserable and stressed on the inside. Donors come away pleased, volunteers feel appreciated, and you don’t burn any bridges.
  4. Express gratitude. Even if you don’t feel it, tell people at your event how grateful you are—for their donation, for their time, for their expertise. Remember that kindergarten adage, “Treat others as you’d like to be treated”? Just like you need donors to keep coming back, you also need your volunteers and hired help to see your best side.
  5. Make lists, stay organized, keep areas clean. Physical clutter can quickly escalate into mental clutter. To stay on task and not let stress take over, make yourself lists of what needs to get done right away, and check it off when it’s completed. Carry around a little notebook and pen to remember everything!
  6. Let yourself worry… and then move on. Some things simply can’t be fixed or helped. On event night, the best way to send everything flying off the rails is to focus on something that simply can’t be solved for the rest of the night (and ignore all your other duties). If you can’t do anything about it… leave it! You’ll have plenty of time to deal with loose ends on Monday, after your event is over.

Remember to keep the goal in sight.

There’s only so much a single person can do in a night. Keep your eyes on the prize: pulling off this event and reaching the end of checkout.
Trust in all the work you did leading up to this moment, and the work everyone else has done—and let go of the things that can’t be changed.

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