We sat down with James Hitchen – Event Marketing Association, General Manager and Wellbeing campaigner – to find out a little more about him before he takes to the IBTM Connect hub as a webinar speaker.
How did you get into the events industry?
By accident really. I worked in the bar industry to start with and somehow got offered a job for an events company and then the rest is history.
Favourite thing about events?
The variety. It is exciting. As an event professional, I have been lucky enough to see and do things that are pretty cool. No day is the same.
What’s on your desk?
I try to keep it as clear as possible. If my desk is messy it gives an indicator of my state of mind. I have a couple of important files, notebooks and some pens and pencils etc. oh and a water bottle
This can change on a daily basis but currently, I think the relationship the events industry has with wellbeing. As an industry, it is definitely behind the curve and it doesn’t have to be.
What is your crowning moment?
Creating the world’s largest pass the parcel for the make a wish foundation. We toured it around the UK and, in each location, another layer was removed revealing another prize. It was great although I think the record has not been broken!
How important is wellbeing in the events industry?
For me, it is essential. We work in a stressful industry. We are deadline-driven and that causes pressure. The role as an event professional has 2 years running been voted 5th most stressful.
That stress is not only caused by deadlines but it is top-down pressure as well. We are a very competitive industry and we tend to say yes a lot and that can have a negative impact. More and more people are suffering from burn out and it should not be that way.
What do you do to encourage conversation around wellbeing in the workplace?
Well, I am pretty vocal about it. I have had my own experiences of mental illness and I had to make some big lifestyle changes, which is when wellbeing became a real passion of mine. I share my experience and the wellbeing practices I undertake if people ask me.
What do you think companies could be doing to encourage conversation?
Put in place a practical wellbeing policy that is simple and easy to execute that involves all that want to be included. There are some great schemes out there like the industry pledge scheme Stress Matters.
How is this received by employees in the workplace?
If a company does it, I think it is well received however there are lots of companies with wellbeing policies that employees choose not to act on for the fear they will be perceived negatively.
What do you do to support the people around you?
I listen, if I am asked for help do what I can or point people in the right direction of the appropriate support. I let people know I am there if they need.
Best piece of advice?
How long have you got? There is so much. We are a sleep-deprived industry so practising healthy sleep hygiene is a must, a balanced diet, get some exercise like a 30 min walk, when feeling stressed take a step back and breath, talk and listen to others, remember to do things you enjoy.
There is so much you can do to improve one’s wellbeing. It is not about big changes as they are not sustainable but setting small achievable goals.
How do you make your staff feel valued?
I try to be kind and compassionate. Give praise, show interest in them, trust them, say thank you, ask questions and listen for the answers.
Do you think there is a link between wellbeing and performance?
Absolutely. It is a fact that a company with wellbeing at its core is more productive, more profitable and happier which leads to better retention of talent etc. It creates a positive cycle.
Roughly how many steps did you walk yesterday?
12,000. I try to get outside when I can and working in London walk where possible and when practical
What do you do to relax?
I take time just for me, I read, go to the movies or theatre, connect with friends, go for a walk or meditate.
If you’d like to hear more about mental health and wellbeing in the events industry, join James and his co-presenter Laura Capell-Abra on Wednesday 29 April at 3pm UK time for a webinar on what you can do to improve your mental health at work, rest & play.
Register to attend here.