Occupational hazards of being an event manager

Last three years, apart from dabbling into other small time things, I spent most of my time as an event manager. And as an event manager I planned, executed and managed events of all sizes. From audiences as small as 5 guests to crowd as big as 20,00,000 over a period of five days, I managed it all.

So first things first. Unlike other "office" jobs where you are supposed to just play the role of an email jockey, you need to be out there on the ground and be a live witness to all the "action". In most cases, rather than being a mere witness, you end up being part of the "crime scene". I did not mind any of this action; on the other hand, I loved being at the middle of all these crime scenes. And more time I spent in the middle, more time I wanted to spend. It was like an addiction. The way you get addicted to dope, I was getting addicted to spending time running shows and getting things in place.

Panorama, from an iPhone,of an event that I managed last year
Now that I am not actively working on events and I have time to zoom out and look at my time as an event manager. And I realized a few truths about myself. And most of them can easily be classified as occupational hazards!

Here's is a quick list.

1. You learn to live with a perpetual depression. I dont know about others but after every major event where the event ends on a high with dinner, I get majorly depressed. I get sad. So sad that I want to bury myself neck deep in sand somewhere and not do anything. Not even sleep, sleep anyways wont come because you are so high on adrenaline after an event well done. You just lie on your bed, staring at the ceiling and waiting for a kick in the butt.

And I can clearly see a pattern. Every time, without fail, after an event, I get into a major depression. Most of my colleagues get drunk after an event and by the time they wake up next morning, the previous evening is all foggy and I suspect that leaves no room for depression. But for a teetotaler like me, events can be hazardous. The very thought of writing this post came to me after a large event that I did a few weeks back. Never got around to writing this that time.

Funny, while I write this, I can sense a tiny amount of depression creeping up on me, for, I haven't really been at the center of action for some time now. Its one of those things, you cant live with or live without.

2. You get addicted to a state of constant excitement. Ever read about junkies, alcoholics and gamblers? Why do they keep going back to their poison? Not that someone forces them to. They crave for the rush that they get from that next injection or that next vodka shot or that next bet of a thousand bucks. The outcome is not important. What is important is living in the moment. The moment when that drug hits your blood stream, or when all the attention of other gambler is on you and you are supposed to bet a lot of money. That rush. You get addicted to it. You know its taking you on a downward spiral but we are humans. We give more importance to immediacy. We want things now. There is no time for later. We can deal with consequences later. Time is unlimited. We would fix. But right now, let me order just one more peg, play one more hand, do another event.

You get the drift? Ok, compare it to driving an open top car at high speed on a long road without any bends. You can see mountains in the distance and there is no trace of humanity on your right or your left. Its you, the road, the open roof car and that wind in your hair (even if you are bald). Or compare it to writing. Like when words magically appear on your screen without you planning for those words. When a small note expands into a long narrative. When you forget that you had to meet the love of your life for breakfast and you cant not go to meet her. You dont want to stop the dance your fingers are doing on the keyboard? You cant decide. That!

And if you dont get the drift, try stopping an alcoholic friend from his next outing and ask him to explain. He may do a better job.

3. You become superstitious. I am the kinds who thinks that the concept of God is created and popularized by weaker people. Yeah, judge me. And yet, before every event, I do my bits of stupid rituals to ensure that event goes well. I know that I have done my homework well and I have planned for contingencies. I know that I have backup of the backup of the backup and I have my entire team on standby. I know that there are way too many variables than I can not control and yet I am prepared for every eventuality. But then I want that extra element of help. Like the weaker people that I spoke about. I want the event to go well. So what do I do? I create my rituals. And I participate in them religiously, despite no apparent evidence of those rituals of being any help.

What rituals you may ask? There are plenty. The evident ones are bowing and saluting to the stage where the speaker would talk from, apologizing to my crew in advance for eventual outburst of profanities and emotions while the event is running, holding onto my breath when an AV is beaming on screen.

Thankfully this superstition did not transition from an event day to my daily life. Actually I dont know if it has transitioned. Did I bowed reverently to a car before I starting driving. Or did I pray to water god before my dip in the pool? I dont remember. I'd take note next time.

4. Blatant disregard for hotels and their opulence, grandeur and snobbery. And of other such fancy places (office complexes, expensive malls etc). Since my work often required me to walk into these places at all hours and in all states of dress (and undress, shabbily dressed etc), I got used to hostile glares from hotel staff. At first it is intimidating but then you get used to it to a point that you enter in the Dont Give a Fuck Mode and you start operating on auto pilot. This disregard has stayed with me even after I stopped working on events and that is why I am perfectly comfortable walking into a five star lobby with broken bathroom chappals and tattered clothes.

Of course your very presence makes other patrons uncomfortable, but then like Col. Jessep's "...sleep under the blanket of very freedom that I provided...", I provide these patrons with an opportunity to enjoy an active social life by planning and executing an impeccable event.

So, I believe that I am justified in the disregard. Of course there are causalities but then which battlefield does not have em?

5. Sleep deprivation becomes your secret superpower. Most people, when sleep deprived, cant think straight. I, on the other hand, thanks to my stint as an event manager, am totally comfortable with less than four hours of sleep every day. In fact ability to operate efficiently even with few hours of sleep is like my superpower that most people dont have. You see, I did not work for a big company and we did not have events everyday but there is so much happening all the time that you ought to be on your feet all the time. And since its a small company, you are expected to do everything at the same time and don multiple hats. Some may argue that its about managing time well but trust me its not. You have to be physically alert. All the time. And that means, no sleep.

In fact, a confession. I miss this secret superpower more than anything else now that I am not working on events. I need my ten hours of sleep now and the day I dont get my ten hours, I am drowsy and I am irate. I just need to get the sleep mojo back. How? 

6. Family becomes a set of acquaintances and friends become strangers. Being an Indian, two most important sets of people in life are my family and my friends. But then thanks to my role as an event manager, there were months when I just did not see my family. I would leave home at wee hours and return at an ungodly hour. I would see them in various states of drowsiness, to unlock doors for me, to pack lunches, breakfasts for me, to ask me about medicines that I may need because I have been tired and working constantly.

Friends and notion of friendship is probably hit harder. You live in the same house with your parents (even at 30, we are Indians) but friends live at some distance. And they have their respective jobs. So when you meet your friends after a few fortnights you dont even know what to talk about. That silent camaraderie that you felt when with friends, its suddenly missing. You can no longer relate to them. Things that made you laugh with them, they dont seem funny no more.

I dont have a girlfriend so I dont know how being an events manager affects your love life. Any opinions on that? I do have sgMS (ok, not her but just her thoughts) but I think my job just got me lot more closer to her - I would constantly think about her and try and guess how would she react to a certain thing, what part of my job would make her happy, so on and so forth.

7. You become an overpaid coolie. You need to work on events at different cities and countries. That means you get to travel to all these places. For someone like me who loves to travel, its a great thing to happen. But then like most travel for work, you are restricted to certain places.

There are times when I have been to really exciting destinations in different counties and all I have done is checked-in at the airport (on the foursquare app) and the hotel where I am supposed to get the event done. I dont even step outside the hotel. Most people would be ok and content with just the foursquare checkin at the airport and hotels but I am slightly old fashioned. I believe that there is so much more to a place than the airport or the hotel.

And when you are in a new city for a few days, its all easily accessible. You just need to step out. I mean you travel all the way to Sydney from Delhi and all you do there is spend four nights in a hotel. You dont even step out of the periphery of the hotel. And stuck in your room on the 34th floor, you think of all the great things that Sydney is famous for. And then you start cursing your luck. And you forget that you are luckier than most other people you know of in life and yet you are complaining and whining.

You know, its like a lot of foreplay but no action. And then the craving for action, in terms of exploring the city you are in, is no less than craving for action after a prolonged foreplay. If you know what I mean.

Oh, did I use the word coolie? Because while I am traveling for events, I am expected to manage and carry all the equipment and other things that an event may need. Often translates into 300 KGs of material. And all airlines hate you for that. So much so that now that I am not an event manager, they still shoo me to a distant counter that is reserved for lowly people, like event managers!

Ok, this is about it. Though, when I started writing this, I thought that the list would be longer. I was so wrong. Do you have any more things to add here? What do you think are occupational hazards of being an event manager?

And before I end this, standard disclaimer. I have worked for some seven years now and have worked for a global MNC, a start up, an advertising agency apart from an events company. And trust me, there is no job like running a show. The kind of faith your clients exhibit in you, the kind of things you do that you thought you couldn't, the amount of quick thinking that you get attuned to, the rush, the excitement, its something that no other job in the world can give you.

I think if the book I am working on does not happen by the end of this year, I would be back at running around running shows.

Just hope, I get the damn naukri. Wish me luck.

First posted on Medium here.

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