Fear re-entering live meetings? Wellness tips for making it through

Blog > Industry News

Fear re-entering live meetings? Wellness tips for making it through

By Maria Lenhart, Journalist | Mar 29, 2022

Enduring over two years of an unpredictable pandemic that was especially harsh on their industry has taken a heavy toll on many meeting professionals. Now that live events are returning, how can planners ensure that they are mentally and physically prepared for re-entry?

First of all, recognize that feeling anxious or nervous during this time of transition is perfectly normal, according to Dr. Kate Steiner, a wellness coach and founder of LIFT Wellness Consulting. 

“We’ve spent two years in a flight-and-freeze mode,” she says. “Our nervous systems are not in a normal place, as we keep anticipating what’s next. We are in a constant state of stress.”

The MPI Event Wellness Certificate program. Join the micro-course during the GMID broadcast.

Steiner notes that planners must now be prepared to work in an environment that changed profoundly during the pandemic, including the fact that many longtime hotel salespeople and other partners have left the industry.

“The comfort level of working with longtime contacts may be gone—you’ve got to work with new people,” she says. “Contracts may be different. There are challenges with rescheduling events that were cancelled and of keeping up with any new COVID precautions.”

Strategies for self-care

For anyone feeling the need to get mentally and physically up to the challenge of re-entry, Steiner recommends taking what she calls “micro steps.”

“I work with people to make small changes rather than jumping into it full force,” she says. “If you say, ‘I will start this new plan on Monday by working out an hour a day, eating only health foods, etc.,’ it becomes too hard in a couple of days, and you give up. If you take micro steps instead, you can build on them and they will compound.”

Steiner advises making a 3 percent change each day, which could mean a small increase in the number of daily steps or taking more time for stress-reduction exercises.

Rachael Riggs, wellbeing leader for Maritz Global Events, recommends deep breathing exercises in advance of any stressful situation, whether it’s before a meeting or boarding an airplane.

“I work with people to make small changes rather than jumping into it full force.”

“Deep breathing exercises are our biggest tool for calming ourselves down,” she says. “Sometimes people don’t give this enough credit. There are many different techniques, including breathing in deeply and letting your breath out slowly.”

Another solution is to seek advice from a professional—perhaps a therapist, counselor, clergy member or wellness coach—on developing coping strategies. 

“What’s most beneficial is to develop coping strategies before you get back into a stressful situation,” Steiner says. “If you can develop coping strategies, you can create a habit and then can better deal with things when they happen.”

Take more time

Acknowledging that meeting planners, herself included, are conditioned to hit the ground running, Riggs says today’s environment requires taking more time for self-care.

“Give yourself the space and time to get back into the swing of things, especially if you are traveling for the first time in a long while,” she says. “Try not to pack your schedule in the way you did before. If you can, build in some extra time, especially to get outside and get centered. Give yourself time to adjust to a different time zone.”

Not overpacking a schedule also applies to the meeting itself. Riggs recommends allowing for longer breaks, a half hour instead of 15 minutes.

“Try not to pack your schedule in the way you did before.”

“Less is more during this time—we need to appreciate our attendees’ time as well as our own,” she says. “A lot of people work from home and are no longer used to a packed schedule. It’s just not healthy.”  

While companies may be resistant to requests for extra time, Riggs says the best way to get it is to explain that it’s necessary for performing at your best.

“It’s a bit of a different message than just saying, ‘I’m so tired and stressed,’” she says.

Support from colleagues

Seeking support from others in the meeting industry may be the most valuable coping strategy of all. If you feel reluctant to ask for help, get over it, Steiner advises.

“Sometimes we feel we can’t ask for help because we fear people will assume we don’t know what we’re doing,” she says. “Asking for help is actually a strength. It means that I won’t waste time floundering on my own.”

Reaching out to people who understand the nature of your work is especially helpful, she adds.

“You need people around you who understand your language of work, who you can talk to about what’s going on without having to explain it,” she says. “Having that social support among those who know your language is very important.”

Riggs agrees, saying that industry organizations such as MPI that provide connections with colleagues are especially valuable right now.

“Asking for help is actually a strength. It means that I won’t waste time floundering on my own.”

“When you go through a trauma like our industry went through—we were the first to go and the last to come back—there’s a need to acknowledge it and discuss our shared trauma,” she says. “It really helps to verbalize it. One of my favorite lines in mental health is ‘name it to tame it.’”

The return to live events, including meeting industry events, will be part of the healing process, Riggs believes.

“The digital space doesn’t replace human connection, it’s the human connection that heals,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to design meetings with the human connection in mind—make it the center of your process.”

Courtney McGee, president and CEO of Event Logistics Inc. in Nashville. Tenn., says the MPI Mentorship Program organized by the Tennessee Chapter has proved to be a valuable way for industry peers to find support and build confidence, including through Zoom meetings during the pandemic.

“We held monthly ‘happy hour’ chats where everyone could share various topics on a personal level,” she says. “I feel that these monthly small, intimate chats helped us all know that while we represented a cross section of the hospitality industry, we were all connected and there to help each other.”



Maria Lenhart, Journalist

Maria Lenhart is an award-winning journalist specializing in travel and meetings industry topics. A former senior editor at Meetings Today, Meetings & Conventions and Meeting News, her work has also appeared in Skift, EventMB, The Meeting Professional, BTN, MeetingsNet, AAA Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Christian Science Monitor, Toronto Globe and Mail, Los Angeles Times and many other publications. Her books include Hidden Oregon, Hidden Pacific Northwestand the upcoming (with Linda Humphrey) Secret Cape Cod.