The Grind

A Day in the Life…Event Planner

So, if you’re my friend on Facebook or follow me on Twitter (@scorpstar77), you are probably aware that I’m currently in Atlanta for a work trip. Part of my day job requirements involve planning and running conferences and events for nonprofit associations. I often encounter people who think it’s amazing that I get to travel for work, and they rarely believe me when I say it’s not really all that glamorous. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not all miserable either, but it’s not even remotely a vacation. As you will read, the food is by far the best part – delicious food that I don’t have to pay for! Though by the end of a week of such rich, rich food, my stomach is not usually as happy as you might otherwise imagine…

Anyway, I thought I’d detail a typical day for me during a meeting just to show what it’s actually like when I’m onsite at an event. I figure this will be interesting to…well, probably only my mom and anyone who has some vague notion of becoming an event planner and is curious what the life is like. I’m fried. This is the best I can do for blog post. 🙂 For reference, this conference is one of the smaller events we do in a year, so know that larger events are more hectic and exhausting.

  • 5:15 am – Alarm rings. I put my phone across the hotel room (which is really quite a nice room this time) so I have to get out of bed to turn it off. I’m still not awake enough, so I snooze it and go back to bed.
  • 5:30 am – Alarm rings again. Get out of bed and walk across the room to turn it off again. Actually manage to stay upright this time. Get ready for the day with shower, contacts, brushed teeth, dryed hair, work clothes, small bit of makeup. Discover that the shower has positively violent water pressure, so bad that it’s hard to comb my hair out afterward.
  • 6:15 am – Head down to the meeting area. Pull equipment, signs, handouts, badges, training materials, etc. out of their hiding places in our locked office, under tables in the registration area, etc. Walk through all the rooms and make sure the tables and audio-visual equipment is all set up according to the specifications we gave the hotel. Check on the continental breakfast to make sure all is set up correctly. Set up my computer and settle into the registration desk to hand out badges and training materials.
  • 7:00 am – Balance the badge/book-giving duty with speakers who want to change something in their setup, questions about where the bathrooms are, and walk-in registrants who have to be totally entered into the system and have badges printed. Discover the printer is lacking a power cord, but it does have a built-in lithium battery and seems to work for now, so keep fingers crossed that it will last all week if I conserve power by turning it off when I don’t need to print something.
  • 8:00 am – Finally get to check work email and address other issues, check in late attendees, eat some breakfast, count to see how many people haven’t shown up who were expected. Try to get some other work done that I brought with me, get interrupted a lot by speakers coming out to ask questions or request things and Board members who arrive with nothing to do just yet who want to hang out and chat. (I don’t mind this over much, to be honest – I genuinely like the vast majority of our members, speakers, and Board members and enjoy talking to them, and being nice to members is part of my job. It’s only slightly annoying when I’m working on something with a very-near deadline, but most of them are gracious enough to recognize the manic look in my eyes at those times and make their visit brief.)
  • 9:45 am – Check on the morning coffee break to make sure all is set up correctly, then back to the registration desk so I can be easily found during the 10:00 am break in case anyone has questions or needs something. After the break settles, get back to trying to get some work done, maybe collate some handouts for the next day or wrap some speaker gifts. I also brought numerous documents I need to write and/or revise, a presentation I need to write, and evaluations for the week’s events that need to be scheduled for email deployment.
  • 11:45 am – Walk to the lunch room to ensure lunch is ready to go and the food looks good. Chat with the chef, who promises to bring me a treat later this afternoon. Confirm with the staff that the buffet is two-sided to ensure more people get through the line faster (it was in a funky L-shape, not normal for a 2-sided buffet), and then plant myself back at the registration desk to answer questions as people leave their training rooms for lunch. Get some emails answered in between questions.
  • 12:30 pm – Most everyone has been through the buffet by now, so I go grab myself a plate and eat back at the registration desk. It’s important at an event where you’re the only staff member to keep yourself in one place where people know they can find you as much as possible in case they need anything. The food is quite good, and I hear a number of comments from attendees on how delicious everything is. (This is not always the case in every event location, but more often than not it is at least decent. Here, it is exceptional.) I am likely to check personal email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. while I’m eating and right after lunch.
  • 1:00 pm – Check with all speakers to make sure they have everything they need, and then back to the registration desk for more of the same: working, answering questions, dealing with minor requests, etc. Start fighting with the internet, too – I have an office-provided AT&T wireless card which is working sometimes, but slowly; a wireless connection to the hotel’s meeting room wireless internet, which is flaky and blinks up and down every 5-15 minutes; and a hard-wired connection to the hotel’s internet, which seems to work one day and not the next. I spend a significant amount of time just trying to make the internet work since my remote connection to the database, my work email, and my personal entertainment depend on it!
  • 2:45 pm – Check to make sure the afternoon coffee and snack break is all set up and ready to go for the 3:00 pm break. Go back and camp out at the registration desk some more to deal with the break-time onslaught of questions.
  • 3:15 pm – After attendees are back in their sessions, I go grab a little piece of whatever snack we’re having that day. Then back to the registration desk for more of the same. This is the time I’ll really focus on anything that needs to be done for the next day’s sessions that isn’t already done.
  • 4:00 pm – The chef comes out and brings me a container of cute (and delicious) little cookies. I am appreciative, but already so full from all the other good food earlier in the day! Still, this is a hotel that knows how to get repeat and referral business – keep your meeting planner happy!
  • 5:00 pm – Sessions start ending. Folks come by to chat, tell me how things went, ask where to go to dinner, where they can find a Staples, where they can find a pharmacy, etc. Speakers bring by their sign-in sheets and let me know their feelings on how things went. One session is running late, still not done at 5:30. I start breaking down the registration desk, taking the printer and badges and such back to the room designated as our office for the week, covering training manuals with tablecloths to reduce temptation for wandering hands to take one, and shoving boxes under tables.
  • 5:45 pm – The last session breaks and brings me their sign-in sheet. I hang out for a short while longer to make sure all my signs are collected and no one left anything in a meeting room and to chat with attendees and speakers who are lingering.
  • 6:15 pm – Get back to my room. Use the bathroom, change clothes (we wear branded shirts for our events, and I was not really interest in wearing a company shirt out for dinner), sit down and breathe for a second.
  • 6:45 pm – Head back down to the lobby to meet the Board of Directors for dinner (or other group of clients – I might have dinner with speakers one night, especially people I’ve been working with for the past 7 years and know pretty well). Walk next door to a nice restaurant, the first time I’ve stepped outside all day.
  • 8:30 pm – Finally get back in my room after dinner. Immediately put on my pajamas and lay out my clothes for the next day. Settle in to watch a little Law & Order (I don’t know why, but nothing soothes the soul after a long day of work, brain exhaustion, and being “on” all day like violent crime dramas) while I do a little computering, maybe write a blog post to schedule for the next day (ahem). Smooth some of my super-pricey L’Occitane lavender foot lotion on my tired feet (I love this stuff, and only use it when I travel as a special treat for my feet, which makes the $20 tube last a lot longer) and notice I’ve developed a large blister on the bottom of one foot. Nice. Oh well – the pressure will make it pop soon. Turn off the TV and settle in to read for a little while; turn out the lights by 10:30 to prepare for the 5:15 am alarm tomorrow.
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5 thoughts on “A Day in the Life…Event Planner

  1. I’m tired now!

    I think routine travel is a lot more difficult than most people realize (of course part of that is the grass is greener….). Even when I visiting a new location I want to see, work usually usurps so much energy I don’t really take in much. Sometimes I only see what’s between the airport and the hotel.

    You sound totally organized – I need you to rub off on me!

  2. I’m exhausted just reading this. 🙂

    Do I remember us having a discussion a few months ago about how fabulous the Band Aid blister pads are? They’re definite life (foot?) savers if you’ve got a big nasty one on one of your tootsies.

  3. Oh, Barbara – I often see the airport, the hotel, and what’s in between through cab or shuttle or train windows. Maybe a restaurant in walking distance. I HEAR YOU, is what I’m saying. 🙂 And I am only organized in my work life – my personal life is a complete organizational disaster.

    Jen, I always carry the Band Aid blister pads! They’re so amazing – don’t leave home without them!

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