Clever Carly: Have Courage

Three lessons planners can learn from Brené Brown’s Netflix special

Hello, planners!

Let’s talk TV: During some much-needed recent downtime, I finally got a chance to watch researcher Brené Brown’s Netflix special, “The Call to Courage.” For the uninitiated, Brown stepped into the spotlight after her TED Talk, called “The Power of Vulnerability,” became one of the platform’s most watched videos. Her work—which focuses on vulnerability, courage, shame and empathy—is also spread across five New York Times best-sellers. 

Now, in “The Call to Courage,” Brown shares her findings and explores what it takes to be courageous in a culture often defined by anxiety, fear and uncertainty. It’s an insightful, empowering 75 minutes—and while watching, I couldn’t help but think about how many of her standout points are applicable to meeting planning. 

So, let’s get vulnerable and dive in, shall we?

1. Show up—even when it’s hard.

I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: Meeting planning is not easy. (Hence why it continually ranks as one of the most stressful jobs.) And though the anxiety inherent to the role is natural—planning does require a lot of moving parts, after all—it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. 

Brown says it’s exactly these types of feelings that require us to be vulnerable, which she defines as “having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” 

And who understands unpredictability better than us planners? A vendor falls through at the last minute, a speaker’s flight is delayed, the power goes out at your venue—all of these things are out of our control. What matters is that we show up to find a solution, no matter how far the light at the end of the tunnel might be. 

“Vulnerability is hard, and it’s scary, and it feels dangerous, but it’s not as hard, scary or dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and having to ask ourselves, ‘What if I would’ve shown up?’” Brown says. “Show up, be seen, answer the call to courage. Because you’re worth it. You’re worth being brave.”

2. Embrace criticism. 

One of the realities of meeting planning is constantly gathering event feedback—both the good and the bad. Let’s face it: Getting negative reviews is never easy. Not only can it be discouraging, but that feedback can feel personal and, in Brown’s words, can turn to shame.

But we shouldn’t shy away from reaching out to attendees out of fear of what they might say. At the end of the day, the critics will help us grow in our craft: We ask to better understand how we can improve future events. 

So, don’t stop asking for feedback, even if its results might scare you. If and when the negative comments come, show up, like we discussed above, and read them thoroughly. Then, use that feedback to grow. What will you do differently in future planning to improve on pain points? Outlining those solutions might take some creativity and—you guessed it—vulnerability, but acknowledging the bad with the good will only make for a stronger planner and event. 

3. Open up when you need help.

Brown says that part of being vulnerable is opening up and reaching out, especially when you’re overwhelmed and need a break. No planner should bear the burden of an event alone, so delegate tasks to your team when you’re at your breaking point. Not only will delegation help streamline planning processes, but it will also prevent you from reaching a point of burnout, where enthusiasm and creativity wanes. 

Brown’s words are a call to all people—meeting planners or not—that though vulnerability is scary, it’s also necessary to reach the rewarding parts of life. Making courage part of your daily life and planning processes will not only lead to better events, but it will also lead to a better you.

Until next time.

Plan courageously, 
Clever Carly