One Size Does Not Fit All

“To be human is to know sadness. Owning our sadness is courageous and a necessary step in finding our way back to ourselves and each other”.

The word Event Professional is not a job title; It’s a decision, a choice, a journey, and an experience. It is a wonderful career choice, but it is also one of the most stressful careers one could choose, and not everyone can do it. Why is that?

Because, as event professionals, we intrinsically take on stress, anxiety, worry, avoidance, fear, and vulnerability. The industry is unpredictable, like a light flickering on and off, especially over these last two years.

I want to focus on the last two years in particular because, in one way or another, whether you have been successful or not, we have all experienced a lack of human connection, contributing to a greater pandemic of people suffering in silence with their mental health.

Anyone reading this will agree that event and hospitality profs have a right to disconnect from work, as many have succumbed to longer work hours, nights and weekends. The continuous lockdowns have impacted the original client proposals in good faith and hope of securing business. These continuous changes have caused overwhelming feelings of anxiety, exhaustion, and even depression amongst business owners, employees, and teams. This pandemic has brought everyone to their knees. Business owners struggle with the constant adapting, employers no longer know what to do to help their teams, and the employees are simply burnt out. And the greatest fear being talked about today seems to
be that clients, after postponing their events and conferences several times, expect the event professionals to pick up where they left off.

Expectations have grown, yet the work falling on the event prof has doubled and tripled as they repeatedly try to navigate the ever-changing course. When I was running the Idea Hunter, 1 remember the expectation was that if a client called and needed a proposal the next day, we would have to stay up all night or work throughout the weekend to please them. It killed me for years.

Does everyone recognize that there are an overwhelming amount of people suffering from mental health problems because this issue is so prevalent in our industry? When is this going to stop? If the pandemic taught us anything, we should understand that we can no longer have the same expectations we once did. Empathy. Mindfulness and human-centricity are daily actions that every person must adopt.

When will it be okay just to say “NO”? 

I am not blaming either side of this equation, but I am saying that it has come time to treat each other with respect, trust and decency. Clients need to stop calling producers, DMCs, and team members, expecting them to do all the work again for zero compensation, and employers need to stop passing the anxiety and pressure on to their teams. As an industry, we must adopt human-centricity and a change of mindset and
listen to the burned-out voices suffering from no work-life balance.

"Hope is a function of struggle – we develop hope not during the easy or comfortable times, but through adversity and discomfort. 
Brene Brown, Atlos of the Heart

We are all aware that being an event professional means late nights and weekends, but that does not mean that you can put aside people’s rights to get it no matter what time of day. I have spoken to several well-respected professionals who have worked in this industry for years; they all say the same thing, this expectation needs to stop. People are tired.

So, I am going to say this once and for all “Stop expecting event professionals just to get it done on your agenda, forgetting that they also have a life. Anyone who chose to become an event professional took an unwritten oath.“Guide the mission with integrity, trust and respect. That means both parties have boundaries, agree to the timetable, agree to the financial burden, and work with decent timelines so owners and their teams can commit to best practices. The industry will change; I am committed to making this happen as it affects too many lives to let it go. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the equation, if this impacts your company, or if your company culture is such that it’s not adhering to best practices, respect and proper employee management, start addressing it now. The industry will be pushing back. This is not a threat to anyone or any company; it’s a promise to push this movement towards no longer accepting the behaviour. No job or gig is worth anyone’s mental health, and the profit isn’t worth it either.

The numbers tell the story.

Dr.Taryn Tang, Ph.D., an esteemed professional in mental health, found a recent survey done by EventWell in the UK that reported one in three event professionals experiences poor mental health in anxiety, stress, depression, and burn-out everyday year. The
the national average is one in four, and event profs rate their well-being as a six out of ten. The report says that 42% of event profs have changed jobs leading to the much-discussed, Great Resignation. This year, event profs are sixth on the list of the most stressful jobs at a whopping 51.199%

The report also looks at how job demands evoke stress and burnout.
·Amount of travel
·physical and emotional demands
·Growth potential
·Overtime hours, nights and weekends
·No work-life balance
·Environmental conditions
·Financial stress

A recent study conducted by Miguel Neves, editor and chief of EVENTMB, asked event profs if they suffered from stress & burnout. Of 656 respondents, 90% said yes; another interesting fact showed that 81.2% of freelancers considered leaving the industry in the last 12 months. People are resigning because of the reputation of the business’s approach to workplace well-being and the top five reasons to select a new employer.

With these stats, every employer in our industry is under a microscope, and the causes are being shared in particular amongst younger people who care more than we did about wellness and balance. So, the steps to creating a healthy journey now come in the form of discussion, social connection and creating a movement that changes the way employers treat their staff.

Where does one seek out help, support and advice? Over the last year, having spoken to
hundreds of families, friends and colleagues, have found myself perplexed by the lack of peer support that companies and industry provide on this very invisible issue.

Interestingly, re-designing spaces, protocols, liability, safety, and security has taken a front-row seat to a human problem that has existed for so long.

Event profs are champions at being organized, tech-savvy, educating themselves, adapting, listening, sharing, yet when it comes to themselves, they mask their faces and voices as if they are fine. You’re not fine. And it’s okay not to be okay. We are all in this together, and we are beginning to open conversations about our health and well-being. We were great at paying lip service to ourselves and others for years. Think of all of the conversations you have had over the last two years; I will guess that many
of them were challenging, painful, or sad.

"As event professionals, we want control because our reputations and livelihoods depend on us taking care of business at the expense of ourselves.”

Whether you struggle with your mental wellness, you know someone who does. So, what can we do as an event community to dispel the existing stigma? Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “you are afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control, but you never had control; all you had was anxiety. Think about that statement for a moment! As event professionals, we organically want to have control because our reputations are at stake, and our livelihoods depend on us taking care of business at our expense.

As a community, we must focus on the importance of human connection and the impact
that connection has on us. That connection affects our happiness, reduces anxiety and depression, builds resilience, increases empathy and compassion, strengthens our immune system, and increases our chances of living longer by 50%.

So, wherein is this the opportunity? Creating conversations within the organizations you work for, associations you belong to, or individuals you work with, creates peer support that will ultimately see a better-prepared workforce and a more engaged outcome.

Leslie Bennett advocates for companies to do better for their employees’ mental health. She spent the early part of her career in the event and meeting industry, where she too was too afraid to let her secret out, fearing losing her job and being shunned from the industry. Little did she understand that disclosing her mental health experience would have been ok – her lack of knowledge about her human rights and what duty to accommodate meant kept her silent.

In 2007, Leslie decided to be open about her experience living with bipolar disorder. Her career shifted, and her commitment to supporting workplaces to become psychologically safe was deepened by learning as much as she could about what it meant to live with and work with a mental health illness.

She and her partners at Mental Health Innovations focus on supporting organizations that prioritize workplace mental health. Leslie also volunteers with The Stability Network – a growing movement of people living and working with mental health issues, sharing their stories to inspire others and change how people think about mental health. I am grateful to have been introduced to Leslie and have begun working with her to support our industry.

As a heart-centric entrepreneur, I know that opinions, judgement, and a lack of knowledge are the enemy. So how can we prevent them from winning the war inside of us? Build a movement, talk more, find more advocates, more educated speakers like Leslie who have the resources to engage our teams. We need to keep telling our stories and, lastly, show some love and make stronger connections to help reduce the stigma that many feel in their work environments.

For my part, I am dedicating this next year to getting this message out in Canada and
abroad to try and change the conversation. I have started a task force of like-minded
event profs, willing to get vocal and fight for change. I am standing because I have
seen the impact this has had on people I care about, and change needs to happen.

To be continued…

Facts: The Right to Disconnect Law-Bill 27 On October 25, the Ontario government announced the introduction of Bill 27, the Working for Workers Act. This bill has several ramifications for Ontarians. Perhaps no aspect has received as much attention as what is often referred to as the right-to-disconnect law.

Click here to learn more.

About the Author:
Heart-Centric Entrepreneur, Leader, Mentor, Changemaker, Visionary, Creative & Passionate. Janice Cardinale is President of Cardinale Creative, a content writer for MPI Global & United Colours of Design and the Associate Editor at Canadian Special Events Magazine. She is a sought-after public speaker on trends in the event industry. She has pioneered two businesses, Only Accessories & The Idea Hunter, both of which were sold successfully and has had an incredible 35 years in fashion, design and events.

In 2021, Cardinale Creative was built to give back to the event community as a way to pay it forward. At the heart of this business are the mission projects that Janice curates and executes to raise funds for student bursaries, mental & physical health and event professionals struggling since the pandemic began. Janice is a board chair for the Event, and Creative Design program at Seneca College has served on many advisory board and association committees, including MPI both locally and globally. Her ideas gather attention from many in the event industry worldwide, and her love of events, people, and beauty continues to be her driver.

Connect with Janice on LinkedIn ~ Instagram