Before I got into the event production world, I spent nearly two decades working in the field of acupuncture. As manager of a Chinese medical office, I had an extended opportunity to hone my skills in client (or in this case, patient) relations, small business management, and conflict resolution. By applying some of the basic tenets of zen philosophy and an awareness of the body/mind/spirit connection, I developed my abilities to stay calm and diplomatic in the midst of chaos and stress.
Here are some key things I learned from the world of holistic health care that have come in handy for event planning and production:
1) Maintaining boundaries - It’s important to remember the scope of your responsibility. In a healing situation, everyone has their prescribed role to play in the process of supporting good health. The patient must care for him/herself, while the practitioner provides treatment and guidance. As event planners, you must be clear on the scope of your responsibilities and what you in turn require of your clients.
2) Being realistic - You can’t expect to be cured overnight of a chronic condition you’ve been enduring for twenty years. A good healer understands the limits of what is possible and how long it will take to achieve realistic goals. Likewise, your client may want you to recreate the pyramids out of Swarovski crystals as centerpieces for caviar platters, but only have the budget for balloon animals and bean dip. You must have an accurate understanding about what is possible given the time and budget within which you are working. Never make promises you can’t keep.
2) Your time and energy are worth something and should be compensated - The best practitioners know that it is important to engage in a value exchange with their patients. Free treatment is not necessarily conducive to genuine healing. Even a sliding fee scale, though allowing for people of different means to gain access to services, entails a fee for those services. Placing a dollar value on your services encourages clients to honor your work and take their own participation seriously. Moreover, the rates you establish set a tone for the industry you represent. Don’t sell yourself or your colleagues short.
3) A good spirit has a positive impact - There are certain basic mechanics of good medicine, or good production. Knowing the skills of your trade is essential to performing well! However, the attitude and energy that you bring into your work has a tremendous impact on the overall outcome. Impatience, condescension, and insensitivity breed distrust and a lack of cooperation. An overall sense of optimism and a willingness to go with the flow give everyone a chance to rise to their highest potential.
5) Yin and yang, baby - Seriously, you must pay attention to the duality inherent in every situation. After all, there IS a natural order of things! Light and dark, on and off, fast and slow, pushing and pulling... Especially when you are pushing to get everything ready for the start of an event, tensions can rise, tempers may flare and anxiety can interfere with your ability to complete everything on your to-do list. Make sure you schedule in some breathing and reflecting time, so that you can rest, refocus and keep your perspective. Try to mix up some humor with the seriousness. It will help you let off steam and keep your client happy.
6) Keeping your perspective - There is cancer, and there is acne. Do not confuse them. One is a potentially life threatening condition, the other is a nuisance. In the end, your event is just that - an event. Seriously, people. A fashion show, a cocktail party, a high end corporate meeting - none of these are do or die situations. Get a grip. Nothing is worth giving yourself an ulcer or a heart attack or making everyone around you miserable. Believe it or not, you will survive, even if you may feel like you want to die. Even mistakes or missteps can be forgiven, if you take them as learning opportunities. Relationships will be made and broken. It’s the nature of the business. Try not to let it make you crazy.
And if things get really out of hand, and you need some help relieving the stress or regaining your balance, I know a few good acupuncturists I’d be happy to recommend...