22nd July. My countdown to a face to face event is over.
Today’s the day I head into London for my first in-person event for “goodness-knows-how-long”!
The Office Management Awards evening has been in my calendar for some time and my feelings of excitement mixed with apprehension have been steadily building.
I’m wheeling my overnight case along my local train platform. I’m masked up. I have a travel hand sanitiser dispenser in my back pocket. I’ve taken a (yay-thank-goodness-it-is-negative-although-not-sure-why-it-wouldn’t-be-anything-other-than-this-as-ive-not-been-anywhere) lateral flow test.
I’ve waved goodbye to my partner Malcolm at the station drop off point. (I’ve waved goodbye to our safe private car). I’m conscious that I’m not doing my normal excited “skip” along the platform. I’ve given myself a severe telling off at the flashback-feeling that I’m 5 years old again waving to my mummy, heading into big school for the very first day with a wobbling bottom lip and tears threatening to well up…bloody hell Lindsay (I’m good at severe self-talk folks). Get a grip. You’re an assertive nearly 50 year old professional business owner who, prior to the pandemic, headed into London almost every week proud of clients in the Shard, speaking at events at Canary Wharf, Excel, Olympia or the bank of England’s vaults…you’re now stepping into official Judge of The 2021 office Manager of the Year Award evening. You can do this. Get a grip
And that’s exactly what I do. And here I am now sharing this post with you proud that I’ve attended my first in person event in ‘goodness-knows-how-long’. I’m still smiling at the experience and I’m ready to head into that wonderful city London again next week.
I hope you enjoy this blog post and my honest, practical account of my experience and my 5 essential tips will help ease you back into in-person events.
1. It’s all in the preparation
I love that phrase “failing to plan is planning to fail”!
I also love that thing called “creative visualisation”. It’s something I do all the time – stepping forward in time and thinking about how something is going to be – how it will look, sound and feel. It’s like creating a future memory and a reference point to work to that will ensure you’ve considered all the “nitty gritty” details of something. It means you’re fully prepared and you’ve planned for an upcoming event. You know how you want it to go and you’ve done everything in your power to make that happen…
On a practical note for me then, I prebooked my train ticket. I arrived at the station platform in plenty of time to print out my ticket and when I was on the train I (re)familiarised myself with the London Underground Tube app on my phone. I knew where I needed to get to (first stop Fortnum & Mason at Green Park to buy a gift voucher as a thank you to Hana, the organiser of the event, on behalf of the Judges!) then I plugged in to my maps how long it would take me to walk from Green Park to Victoria and my overnight hotel. I knew how long I had for a soak in the bath before donning my gladrags and heading to the event venue.
I read through the feedback and notes I’d made on the entrants, runners up and winner of The Office Management Group category.
I looked up the LinkedIn Profiles of my fellow Judges and the Sponsors so when I walked into the event room I had an idea of who was who.
I considered how my feet were going to cope with wearing “posh” shoes for the evening and how I was going to coordinate climbing the steps onto the stage for the presentation part of the evening – (thanks fellow Judge Lucy Chamberlain for holding hands as we did this together with no trip-ups!). I’d spent the majority of lockdown in either welly boots or my trusty, comfy flipflops so ensured my flipflops accompanied me to the event in a bag that I left with concierge so that I could swap foot attire at the end of the evening….
Okay. Sounds silly right? We’re breathing all the time, but when we’re apprehensive our breathing can become irregular – a quickening of breath or (like me!) a holding of our breath whilst we process our feelings… take a deep breathe in through your nose counting 3 seconds then out through your mouth for 3 seconds. Concentrate on your breathing and counting. Trust me. It works.
3. Acknowledge and share how you’re feeling
Be honest at acknowledging, vocalising and sharing how you’re feeling – with yourself and others.
Yes, like you, I got fed up of hearing the phrase “unprecedented times” throughout this pandemic – but it absolutely is just that. Is there any wonder that we are a smelting pot of emotions given we’ve never been in this situation before?
We are emotive creatures. And we can create a strong bond with others by acknowledging our human vulnerability, demonstrating empathy and understanding.
4. Be kind to yourself. If you need to step away, do it.
I visited the ladies room at the event venue several times and definitely did not need to pee every time (I told you this was honest advice!). My makeup’s never looked so pristine as I took a few mins to ‘powder my nose’ and reapply lipstick…. To talk in a quieter environment to fellow restroom users …
I recognised that I needed to step away from the ‘crowd”. Is it any wonder that I was feeling sensory overload when I’d spent the majority of this pandemic period with myself and family members in the calm quietness of our countryside home and office …the noise from a room of just over 100 people was an overwhelming contrast.
Be ready for this sensory overload experience. And make sure you have some “quiet” time planned after the event too. I had a restful weekend planned to think over my experience and to calibrate all that I’d learned – which leads me to point 5!
5. Identify what you’ve learned and reward yourself!
Hindsight is an Amazing thing (so amazing in fact that I’ve capitalised the “A”!!)
Identify what you’ve learned from this experience. Feedback to yourself on what went well, what didn’t go so well, what you’ll do differently next time, what you’ll do more of, less of….
Reward, congratulate or treat yourself for attending your first in-person event.
My reward was a cup of tea in bed in my hotel room before I cuddled down for the night … exhausted but pleased with my first in-person event for an age and ready to head into London again with less apprehension and more of that “skip” along the station platform!