why event planners (and everyone else) needs whitespace in their lives

event planners need to find ways to be less busy

Last week I attended HSMAI’s Meet National Conference in Washington, DC. ¬†The most memorable part was the keynote speaker – Juliet Funt, a speaker and business consultant, and also the daughter of Allen Funt, the creator of Candid Camera. Her talk was on whitespace and I’ll admit, I went into the presentation with pretty low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Funt’s presentation was and how much I agreed with her. For all of us who strive for work life balance, her talk really resonated.

The WhiteSpace schtick is the idea that we all need WhiteSpace in our lives.¬†According to Funt, “WhiteSpace is improvised and scheduled time and thought for which we have no predetermined agenda or plan… it’s the time during which strategic thinking occurs, creativity soars and focus returns.”

In other words, WhiteSpace is the time when you can actually be creative, think clearly, solve problems and… do your job. When I say do your job, I don’t mean just the tasks that make up your daily grind, but manage to achieve value that event planners bring to the table.

Funt’s presentation was full of funny stories and statistics to back up what we already know – we’re all too busy. We’re overcommitted. We have too much going on at work which can’t help but creep into our personal lives.

I’ve always been annoyed when people (co-workers, even friends) played the busy card. “Oh, I’m just so busy.” “I can’t, I’m swamped.” Or the even better game, the “I’m busier than you” game which really translates into the “I’m clearly more important than you” game. Don’t tell me how many unread emails you have in your inbox – we all get too many emails. Don’t tell me how many hours of meetings you have, start cancelling some of them. Don’t brag about checking your work phone in the middle of the night.

I’m not immune to falling into the busy trap myself, I’ll admit it. Sometimes my husband will ask me what’s up and I’ll just say, “I’m so busy.” But why? What do you have going on? he’ll ask, forcing me to admit that maybe some of my busyness doesn’t need to be quite so overwhelming.

Everyone in every profession falls into the overbusy trap, but I feel like event planners are particularly susceptible. But this is where Funt’s talk really hit home: her talk was tailored to meeting and event planners, first of all, but she also talked about what happens when you don’t have WhiteSpace. You can’t think. You can’t be creative. You can’t be strategic. For event planners that means you can’t really do your job.

Funt had a few suggestions which may or may not work for you, such as only checking email three or four times a day, or setting strict parameters around email response time.

For me, I am trying to make an effort to schedule a bit of WhiteSpace. Sometimes I need to shut off the email alerts so I can work through something. Sometimes I need to remind myself it’s okay to take some time and read other blogs or magazines, or take the time to visit a new venue or try a new caterer so I can stay on top of trends and ultimately become a better event planner.

Funt shared a story that someone at one of her talks had shared with her, years ago. The woman recalled a day when she was a child when her father wanted to go out for a ride and have a picnic, very spur of the moment. The girl’s mother declined to go, saying she was “too busy.” So the child and the father went off and had an amazing, wonderful time. A few days later, the father died suddenly and unexpectedly. The girl’s mother forever regretted that she “didn’t go for the ride.”

Now that I’ve gotten you choked up like I was when I heard that, the moral of the story is that work is important, but work is just work. And we shouldn’t miss living a full life, just to get bogged down by being busy. Just something to keep in mind. I’m going to try to remember that next time the phrase, “I’m too busy,” starts to come out of my mouth.

And in the effort of ending on a higher note, enjoy this video of Juliet Funt:

Humor Just for Meeting Planners from Juliet Funt on Vimeo.

What do you think? How do you combat busy?

Photo Credit: { Linked Virtually }