I first became aware that a pattern exists in the emotional and physical stages of producing an event or managing an extensive project when I read the book “Seven Crises” by Richard Nixon. In the book, former President Nixon described the events that occurred during critical times in his life.
Although the real purpose of the book appeared to be Nixon’s need to justify his actions during each time of crisis, what struck me was how Nixon went through the same emotional and physical stages in each of the described situations. Nixon detailed the excitement, the tension and the energy it took to pour himself into each of his crisis situations. He depicted the singular focus he employed in his activities during each crisis and the abrasive effect it had on his family, friends and co-workers. According to the book, Nixon’s most vulnerable point in each crisis surprisingly occurred after the crisis was over. It was at this point in time that Nixon admits he committed his greatest errors.
It was after it was over that Nixon, excoriated the press for aiding his opponent in defeating him for Governor of California and chastised the two young State Department aides for his mistaken belief they had mishandled the crowd control during his trip to South America. He admitted to similar misjudgments in the hearings on Alger Hiss and the rest of his critical moments in the public spotlight.
As I began to reflect on Nixon’s plight, I realized that although his crises played out on a much higher, political plane, it’s really the same for all of us in the event and project planning business.
As I see it, and confirmed from Nixon’s book, there appears to be eight emotional and physical stages that occur for most event producers and project managers:
- Excitement. This is when the initial idea and energy starts to bubble. You can’t wait to get started.
- Intensity. This stage adds the total commitment and the charge to get it all done.
- Apprehension. What if no one comes to the event?
- Wired. It’s about to happen. The tension mounts. This is when it becomes hard to communicate with family and co-workers. You do not want to be distracted,
- Elation. The event was a success.
- Depression. It’s over—be careful.
- Exhaustion. Feel like a zombie.
- Recover. You get back to normal.
Alert the people around you to stages 3 and 4 and tell them you may be a little short with them. Be especially careful in stages 6 and 7. Those are the most critical times to misread or offend.
Early in my career I was given responsibility for putting together and running an awards banquet. This was my first solo responsibility and I was anxious to do it right. It all went off quite well. When it was over, I stayed to pack up all the props and paraphernalia.
We didn’t stay too long; and when I got home, I realized I didn’t have my brand new blazer. Early the next morning I called and went back to the hotel, but there was no sign of my blazer. If I didn’t feel bad enough now, I knew I had to face the wrath of my wife.
I had worked night and day for more than a year to produce my event. When it was over, I was exhilarated with the success and exhausted. My job as a recorder was to summarize the discussions of my breakout group to the plenary session at the end of each day. The task was interesting but demanded a lot of attention.
I learned I needed to be more careful about the invitations I accepted.
As I advanced in years, I never went to bed for five or six days, but I better understood why he did.
When the event is over, you have to be careful and cognizant of these last stages in the event of a letdown. Each of us is different and has to find the right amounts of rest, solitude and increasing levels of exercise and socialization that works best for our recovery.
About the same time as my event aftershock, I had occasion to talk with a gentleman who ran a counterpart organization in another city. He told me after his show he would go to bed for five or six days. I was young and thought he must be kidding; made more fun of him than I should have.
It was difficult because I was over tired, couldn’t sleep and was “wired” to the hilt. My performance as a recorder was not my finest hour.
That was my first lesson in vigilance. A few years later, after a first very successful consumer show, I had agreed to accept an invitation to attend a session of the Arizona Academy as a “recorder.” The academy was a group of high profile civic, business and academic leaders who met twice a year for four days to discuss and make recommendations on issues of importance to the state.
It was a warm summer night. After the event, the hotel had turned off the A/C, so I took off my new blazer to get everything wrapped up and put in my car. When finished, I went into the bar to fetch my boss who I had to drive home. He appeared pleased with the night’s event and invited me to have a drink.
In the letdown after it’s over, you have to be careful. It’s important to maintain your vigilance and be on guard because the depression and exhaustion is coming.
You may not experience each of these stages exactly as I have described them, but you will probably go through most of them in one way or another. Because these stages come into play time and again, it is important to recognize and prepare for them.