5 Lessons For Event Planners from Pan Am Athletes

At the time of writing, the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games are in full swing in Toronto giving the province its first international multi-sport event since the British Empire Games in 1930. The last time these games were held in Canada was in 1999 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The Pan American Games, held every four years in the year preceding the Olympic and Paralympic Summer Games, are the world’s third largest international multi-sport Games, surpassed only in size and scope by the Olympic Summer Games and the Asian Games.

Some 6,000 athletes from 41 countries will participate in over 36 sports across 30 venues in 16 municipalities. Over 23,000 volunteers will help to make it all happen.

No mean feat by any measure.

But despite the magnetite of the organizational achievement for the most part it goes unnoticed. As it should.

It’s all about the athletes.

Most have worked their lifetimes to reach this level of skill and for them his is their moment to test themselves against others who have also dedicated themselves to perfection.

We cheer them on and witness their triumphs and defeats. We feel their pain and their ecstasy.

We can learn a lot from them.

Bring your best every time

Athletes can’t phone it in or “get by”…ever. Whether it is a small local meet or the largest multi-country games in the world they bring their very best every single time.

Outcomes may not always be what they hoped for but they can always look back and say they gave it everything they had.

Can we do the same?

Be coach-able

Athletes thrive on feedback and critique and are constantly striving for improvement. They know that criticism and correction will lead to better results and they welcome it. Doesn’t mean it isn’t hard at times. But they know that they need their coaches and trainers and mentors to push them to the best they can be.

Too often in business we view help as a sign of weakness and criticism as an insult. Instead, why not seek out and welcome advice and use it to grow and improve.

Each event presents a new chance to shine

Athletes are often faced with defeat and yet with each competition they start fresh and know they have a new chance to set records. They don’t dwell in the past or let challenges defeat them. They diligently review each performance and look for ways to better themselves and the outcome. They work even harder knowing each new competition offers a fresh start.

Similarly we in events have the opportunity to start with a clean slate every time. No matter what happened last time, we can apply what we learned and strive for improved results. With each event we are offered a new beginning and a new chance to get it right.

Consistently strive for excellence

Athletes practice and train as a way of life as they strive for constant improvement. Can you imagine if they won one competition and then stopped training? They compete against themselves to better their results every time. No matter how well they do today, they want to do even better tomorrow.

So too should we apply this to our events, always striving to make each better than the last. Complacency is deadly.

Celebrate success

Few things are more joyful than watching athletes celebrate an important win. They take the time to revel in the moment and are quick to share the accolades with their fellow team members, coaches, trainers and anyone else who had a part in their success.

Too often we event planners brush off success as we hurry on to the next project. It’s important to take time to celebrate with the team and acknowledge everyone’s contribution. It’s as critical (if not more so) to review and remember everything that went right as anything that didn’t.

Think like an athlete. Treat your career as lifetime training and each event as a new chance to apply that training. You are competing against yourself as you strive to improve on past achievements. Regularly seek advice and feedback and engage in continuous learning…and a gold medal is all but guaranteed!



Post by Margaret Johnston, eventswork.com

As a career event professional, Margaret brings valuable insight and knowledge to the recruitment, management and development of high-performance teams for the event industry. A strategic and inspiring leader, Margaret has held executive roles for several global event management companies and key roles in the start up and orchestration of many high profile and international events.


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