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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

The best laid plans

Updated: Jan 2

overwhelmed at the holidays

Often, our image of how an event will play out is overly idealistic. Holiday events are a good example of reality not measuring up to expectations.

We imagine a picture-perfect Norman Rockwell scene and get something closer to Home Alone chaos instead. Our expectations exceed what our resources of time, energy, patience, and finances can bear.

In an attempt to recreate old memories or the feelings of holidays long ago, we may not realize that our memories have deleted the mishaps and behind-the-scenes stress. We may remember fondly the Christmases of our childhood, but if we asked our parents how smoothly everything went way back when they might tell us a different story.

The solution to this struggle begins with rethinking our expectations and keeping them realistic and attainable. With that frame of reference, we are ready to take on the task of planning.

5 tips for planning holidays with less stress

This blog features my tip series: “5 Tips for Attending to Logistical Details.” These tips apply specifically to planning events such as presentations and conferences but they can also be applied more broadly to all types of events such as holiday gatherings.

The saying, “The devil is in the details” applies well to this tip series. The success or failure of an event often comes down to the logistical planning or lack thereof.

The inspiration for this tip series came from Chapter 33 in Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide, which describes the rationale for, components of, and strategies for logistical planning and disaster prevention. In a nutshell: Plan. Prepare. Prevent.

Tip #1 Success is not an accident

Logistical planning and preparation serve to prevent disasters and ensure that an event runs smoothly. Careful planning enhances the experience for the audience and allows presenters to focus on communicating effectively.

A well-planned event is a coordinated effort between all parties involved. Be intentional about planning and the final execution will be a success.

Tip #2 Plan every detail

Logistical planning involves arranging who, what, when, and where for an event. Speaker and location arrangements are among the first details to plan. This is followed by facility planning, technology arrangements, and securing needed supplies.

Determine who is responsible for each step. Communicate early and often to make decisions and confirm arrangements.

Tip #3 Keep detailed records

Create systems for tracking all arrangements and correspondence. Use digital or physical file systems to store all records. Put all deadlines into a master timeline and communicate important dates to all responsible parties.

Strive to meet deadlines in advance. Check and double-check the completion of each task. Keep careful notes for future reference.

Tip #4 Have a backup plan

Throughout the planning and preparation process, build in contingency plans because “life happens.” It pays to expect the unexpected so that when disaster strikes it doesn’t take you by surprise.

Pack the umbrella, the extension cord, and the duct tape. Have contact information for all of the key players. Arrive early. Go over all of your lists, twice. Stay calm. Be flexible.

Tip #5 Maintain a positive attitude

From the start of planning through reading the final evaluation, keep a positive attitude. Be the person others want to work with. Be observant, attending to the details without getting bogged down.

Focus on the purpose of the event and the people involved. When things go wrong - and they likely will - maintain your composure. You will be remembered for handling things well.

5 P's for successful holidays events

I propose five P’s to successful holiday events: Prioritize, Plan, Prepare, Prevent, and remain Positive.

The first P – prioritize – adds to the ones included in the original list of tips. With so many possible events to host and attend throughout this festive season, prioritize the ones that are the most important and meaningful.

Prioritize what to include and what to leave out of each event. Simplify or eliminate the nonessentials leaving more energy for what matters most.

“The holidays stress people out so much. I suggest you keep it simple and try to have as much fun as you can.” ~ Giada De Laurentiis

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