What happens when you blow your top?

Do people working in the event industry have shorter fuses - are they more prone to anger and explosions of rage and anguish - than everyone else?

It can certainly seem that way. I've lost count of the number of times I've witnessed a small hitch or problem provoke a volcanic reaction from the event organiser or contractor. Frequently, the anger is out of all proportion to the perceived problem, as if it was a reaction to something else much worse.

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Of course, people working in the event industry are just like everyone else, and I've come round to thinking it's the precise nature of the work that actually causes these blowups, not the specific problems or the personalities of the people dealing with them.

Every event, from music festivals and exhibitions to comedy nights and conferences, is built on a complex web of dependencies. At the simplest level, these dependencies are easily resolved at the planning stage, but we all know that no event plan survives contact with reality, and when mobile phone batteries die, traffic delays prevent deliveries or winter comes 6 months early, plans have to change.

Being in control is why we plan. And when we feel that control unravelling because of apparently inconsequential glitches, and our plans start to fray, split and crumble, it's not surprising that anger is the first emotion to surface. When people do finally lose their cool, it’s because, for an instant, they feel powerless.

Up to the point something goes wrong, they’ve seen themselves as ‘in control’ of events, and then they find themselves victims of circumstance. Of course, the reality is that we always have the power to act, and we are always prisoners of chance. The trick is to keep these facts uppermost when the spanner truly lands in the works, and use anger as an impetus to find the constructive and positive route to the best solutions that present themselves.

All the raging and swearing in the world won't deal with the problem. You know what it's like to be present when someone else is blowing their top - it's disquieting, embarrassing, and irrevocably changes the team or group dynamic. If you 'go ballistic' in front of your team, you can almost guarantee that you're not going to hear about any other glitches or problems, for fear of you 'shooting the messenger', and people are going to start walking on eggshells around you.

Speaking to our event organisers and their teams, I always emphasise that many of these glitches can be completely avoided if they share their detailed plans with us. The more we know about all the nitty-gritty involved in delivering a given event, the more we are able to help when something falls through and breaks the chain of dependencies. When you're under pressure, there's a tendency to ensure everything gets done by doing it yourself, but effective delegation and prioritisation let you unload some pressure on to other people, and quickly draw a line under any irresolvable problems.

But even when the proverbial has really hit the fan and the venue team can't help - and you do need to vent some anger and rage, pick your moment. The consequences of a blowup can worsen, depending on who's in the room with you - the council? The venue team? A valued client? There are loads of good anger management techniques out there, including the absolute minimum rule of 'counting to ten' before you say or do anything. If you need to vent, find a discreet place to do it! Once you've regained your composure, you're in a much better position to solve the problem, whether you need to ask for help or simply make a reasoned decision.

Picture of Jason Lunn

Written by Jason Lunn

Jason is Venue Director of the East of England Arena and Events Centre, running the entire site including hospitality, catering, maintenance of the site and all 3rd party and internal event services.