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How can embracing the unknown help to reduce event planning stress?

Mostly, event planners are the worst at being surprised. They like to know what is happening, when, where, how and every little detail. After all, this is how they ensure their events run smoothly. Surprises are great, as long as they don't know about them beforehand.

Against all of my event planning instincts, I recently decided to book a holiday with a friend through, a Dutch start up company. The difference between this holiday and others we had taken? We would not discover the destination until arriving at the airport. This was exciting and terrifying in equal measures.

One week before departure we were sent a weather report, which offered guidance on what to pack and a scratch card, which we would take to the airport with us. As with an event, I like to plan my holiday but found this quite tricky under the circumstances. We did not know what attractions we would visit, what currency we would need or what we might want to buy while there.

Destination unknown - the big reveal

On the day of departure we arrived at the airport. The countdown timer on our personalised website reached zero and we nervously but excitedly scratched the card to reveal a code, which we then put into the website to reveal our destination....Stuttgart!

Hmm Stuttgart?! I knew this was a business district in Germany but this was where my knowledge ended. I had no association of what the city was like or what experience it would offer. I was not convinced by the travel companies choice. However, we had known it was a gamble and were happy to go with the flow, so we checked in and as we made our way through the airport we researched Stuttgart on the internet.

What did the city break have to offer?

Stuttgart is actually home to one of the oldest and largest Christmas markets in Europe. Perfect for a Christmas getaway and to finish off the Christmas shopping. The unique feature of this market was the decorated roofs. Each trader decorated the roof of their stall in order to compete in a competition for the best design. Similar competitions would work well at trade shows to engage exhibitors and enhance the attendee experience.

The Porsche Museum was also high on the list of things to visit. We visited Killesbergturm, an observation tower which Johnny D Martinez recommended on Twitter after I tweeted to ask for suggestions from my followers. The palace and the 100 year old market place were interesting sights to take in. Fernsehturm was the world's first TV tower and the prototype for many similar communication towers worldwide. The landmark offered panoramic views from 150m above Stuttgart. Unfortunately, the event space just below the summit was closed but I can imagine it would be a pretty interesting venue to host an event. As Scott Westerfield once said "The best way to know a city is to eat it" so we stopped at an alpine lodge style restaurant in the Christmas market to sample some traditional German dishes.

By the end of the holiday we had discovered an unexpected destination that had met all of our needs including a short flight time from the UK, some attractions we had not visited before and centrally located accommodation of a decent standard. It was almost as though the holiday had been personally planned with us in mind.

What does a surprise city break have to do with event planning?

By the end of the holiday I had come to the realisation that were experts in what they do. Their travel consultants had the knowledge of destinations that could offer interesting experiences. Any original doubts I had about booking this trip were gone. I would happily trust them to plan my holiday again!

During the event planning process planners need to rely on many others including suppliers and colleagues. This can often cause anxiety. I have met event planners that struggle to let go and trust others. This is understandable, as event planners strive to provide the best possible experience and the responsibility and pressure is huge. Could wellbeing in the industry be improved if event planners learnt to trust a bit more? Although easier said that done, here are my tips for learning to trust and reducing anxiety:

  • Build a great team around you who will work with you and support you.

  • Work with suppliers who you are confident will deliver.

  • Understand that you don't need to know EVERYTHING - that is why you have hired expert suppliers.

  • Trust yourself more and believe in the hours of preparation that you have done.

  • Embrace any challenges as opportunities to learn.

  • Enjoy the event and others around you will enjoy it too.

Do you struggle to feel on top of your event without stressing yourself out too much? How have you built trust with your team or your suppliers? How do you let go and avoid anxiety during events? Share your tips with others.