Stress dreams. Everyone knows them. Everyone gets them. But for event planners, stress dreams get to a whole new level.

If the cliche stress dream is showing up naked to somewhere important, you have these dreams too — but with the added horror of your phone on the fritz, your team in a frenzy, your guests wandering around aimlessly, and your headliner throwing a fit. 

Or wait — that wasn’t a dream. That was last Tuesday. 

Here are the top 5 event planner nightmares. 

Nightmare #1: You are woefully unprepared for an important presentation 

You’re walking briskly, plastic folder in one hand, notes in another. Suddenly, you’re in front of potential sponsors in an ill-fitting bathing suit, your notes are gone and your PowerPoint slides featuring MySpace photos from ten years ago. 

You try to speak, but you can’t take your eyes off your polyester dance outfit from 7th grade. Neither can your sponsors — the investors you needed to get your dream event off the ground. 

They are laughing and laughing, and soon it’s all you can hear, even after you wake up in a cold sweat, clutching your notebook to your chest on the couch where you fell asleep listing talking points while watching Law and Order: SVU. Mariska Hagarty stares accusingly at the camera. You can’t help but feel like it’s directed at you. You take three melatonins and go to bed, but still stare at the wall for another forty minutes before sleep finally wins out.

Pro tip: Remember that preparation is half the battle. To stave away late-night notetaking, check out this sponsorship guide. 

Nightmare #2: Your headliner is a no show

The stage lights go on. A single spotlight of moody orange, just as your headliner requested. A beat. Another beat. 

Nothing. 

You call your assistant with your headset. He can’t find them. The green room is empty, save for a single, half-empty bag of cheese crunchies. 

You sprint to the bowels of the backstage, calling your headliner’s name and cursing yourself for not quadruple-checking the set times. But the backstage is a labyrinth, and you are the Minotaur, wandering forever in the darkness, dead end after dead end. Finally, you see a square of light ahead, a dark figure in silhouette. You rush towards it — finally! — only to stop short. You are on the stage, thousands of attendees watching. Someone hands you a mike, turns it on. The feedback is deafening, so much so that you wake up, only to realize it is your automatic coffee maker going off, letting you know it’s out of grounds. 

Good morning to you too. 

Pro tip: Book performers without stress with this guide

Nightmare #3: You’re late — to your own event

Your alarm goes off. Ah, the pleasure of a new day! You are happy, you are healthy. You have planned this day out perfectly, and this hour block has been set aside for you to sip your detox tea and read some Mary Oliver on the front porch before heading out. 

You arrive at the bus stop early, your second tea (English breakfast, because you were feeling wild) clutched in your hand. The bus is the same old, same old, but you even get a seat. You are making great time — that is until the bus takes a right when it should have taken a left. You pull the cord, call out to the driver, but the bus doesn’t stop. In fact, it goes faster. 

Your phone buzzes. “Where are you?” Asks the venue manager. “The line is getting longer by the second.” You gasp and check your watch, but your hands are moving too quickly to read it. At last, the bus skids to a stop and you tumble on to the pavement, spilling tea all over your shoes. You squelch the final half block to the venue in complete disarray, but at least you made it. “I’m here!”, you cry. But the venue is closed, the doors locked shut tight. “Oh, that event?” says the confused manager when you call him in a frenzy. “That event happened two years ago.” 

Pro tip: Scheduling got you down? Download this free Gantt chart to stay steps ahead of any disaster. 

Nightmare #4: You let your team down at a crucial moment

You’ve made a lot of promises today to a lot of different people, but you’re used to it. Smart communication is how you have built this team from the ground up, and you don’t plan on stopping now. There is always a better solution, a more airtight system. 

That is, until your phone starts ringing off the hook. Your apps ping. And ping and ping and ping. Slack, Facebook, email, text, one fat carrier pigeon…

You can barely keep up. The requests getting angrier and angrier. You messed up. You messed up in a million different ways, and now everyone else is in hot water because of you. Sponsors are dropping out. Your venue was double booked. No one got paid!

You can’t even read the messages now. They are gibberish, lines of hieroglyphs or ones and zeroes. Unless…wait. 

You blink the sleep from your eyes. Your computer screen stares back, and you finger the keyboard impressions on your cheek. Darn. You were halfway through your event announcement email…but all that’s left is Wingdings. 

Pro tip: Learn how the Asana team multi-tasks in this tipsheet

Nightmare #5: You’ve lost something 

Your hands plunge into your bag. Where is it? You check your computer case, your car trunk, your couch cushions. Where could it have gone?

“We need it!” your company wails. They are dark specters. Or maybe attendees. Are those the same thing? “Or the event will be a disaster.” You spot something squashed under a pile of papers. Ah ha!

“That’s not it!” the specters hiss. You toss it to the side, but your heart is beating faster. You know — it’s on the tip of your tongue! — what is lost. But you can’t seem to get all the way there. Is it a key? A file? A hard drive?

In the bathroom trash, your fingers grasp something smooth and cold. Yes!

In your hand is an oblong bottle with a cork stopper, something green and phosphorescent swishing inside like an errant frog. You twist it to read the inscription on the label: Herein Lies Your Mind.

The assembled chorus chuckles. 

Pro tip: Don’t lose attendees with this expert guide from Lyft. 

Leave those nightmares behind

No matter what your brain cooks up, remember that you have more control than you think. If you need to calm your nerves before your next event, check out this pre-event checklist.

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