PLASA Show 2018 - Mental Health, Networking and Time Hacks!

The Professional Lighting and Sound Association show is a great opportunity to find out more about what’s going on in the entertainment and live events industries.  Whilst the exhibitions are largely about the new tech available across the board, there are really helpful organisations on site and a range of seminars available to attendees.

PLASA Show 2018 - Mental Health, Networking and Time Hacks!

Here I’m summarising the seminars I attended with my top learnings from a few sessions.  Think of this as your triple shot of advice to peak your interest for next year. 

Time Hacks

Presented by Liz Hardwick from DigiEnable on behalf of BECTU

How do you make the most of your time and squeeze as much in as you can?  Especially relevant for any freelancer, but ofcourse we’re all pressed for time and have people expecting lots from us whatever our employment situation.

So here’s my takeaways of top tips…

For all meetings

  • Only have them if relevant & appropriate - don’t be afraid to cancel recurring ones if there’s nothing new
  • Set an agenda, stick to it
  • What do you want to get out of it? (This applies to any events or ‘meetings’ including Networking events)


  • It takes 16 minutes to properly focus after a notification apparently; can you turn them off?
  • Allocate time in your day for checking notifications (email, social media etc)


  • Your mind - i.e. focus thinking.
  • But also your desk - the physical space being clear may help declutter your mind too

Time allocations

  • Block book your time for different tasks
  • Start by recording your week and working out what tasks you’re doing when, can you reallocate, reduce or block activities better?
  • Evaluate what you achieve in the time allocated, start by knowing and then making changes

Email productivity

  • What is your zen? Inbox zero?
  • Have an action folder?
  • Can you keep your emails to 5 lines or less?

Liz also covered some handy apps for time tracking, workflow management etc.  There’s lots out there and a few to pick out that i can recommend to is:

  • Evernote - For note keeping, possibly to-do lists too (I use it for this)
  • Pocket - Or similar bookmark to read later type apps
  • Trello - for Task management (I use Evernote & a system called Codebase mainly)
  • Toggl - for time recording
  • Buffer - for social media scheduling

We also have a follow up guide from Liz too - read it for more details


Presented by John Schwab from Curtain Call

This was about much more than just your average breakfast, drinks or typical networking event.  John covered networking as a whole; meeting someone new at an audition or whilst working somewhere.  My summary is to say that networking happens always and everywhere.  Keep a business card on you at all times and be prepared to give your short pitch about what you do or an upcoming project.

Other tips from John included:

  • You must be able to walk in, find out the problem and help develop the solution with whomever you’re engaging

  • First impression count, but it’s not what you say, it’s how you make someone feel

  • Networking is about listening - hearing what challenges they face is important for you to develop what you can offer tailored to them

  • Try keeping a diary, at least a log of who you meet - where, when, what about - incase you can refer back to it

  • Follow up every meeting with correspondence - a call, email etc.

  • Plan your attendance at a networking event - what do you want to get out of it? Have a question ready to ask those you meet.

  • After a preview you’ve been to - go to the bar.  The creatives are usually there and it’s a chance to strike up a conversation.

  • Always offer support, support & more support.  Helping others/attending their shows paves the way to them helping you if you need it.

  • Arrive early and take time to yourself nearby first - a chance to breathe & collect your thoughts

Mental Health Seminar

This was a panel discussion about Mental Health in the industry, the room was packed! The key takeaway: It’s important to look after yourself.  Physically and mentally.  Now why?

However, With the right support anyone can recover.  So having methods to detect and support those with mental health around you (and yourself) is important.  As the figures above show, you are not alone.

So what’s the advice?  If you’re a producer or manager or anyone that employs anyone (or works collectively or with volunteers) then you should risk assess the potential for contributing negatively to people’s mental health.  Does your work induce stress? Do they come in to contact with tough topics, challenging activities or negativity from other people? Do they simply undertake work which could be demoralising sometimes (like rejections of fundraising bids) or are they directly supporting those having a tough time (including mental health projects).

The risk assessment is just like any others; what’s the hazard, what level of detriment could it have, and how do you implement controls to reduce the likelihood of occurrence, or severity as much as possible?  What does this mean in practice? Depending on the severity you might consider implementing actions like:

  • Allowing ‘down time’ for processing & recovery
  • Providing group or 1:1 support sessions on a regular basis
  • Providing access to a counselling service (which may be through your insurance, or an industry service)
  • Training staff as Mental Health First Aiders
  • Regular project reviews or workload reviews
  • Promoting the access to help & support, de-stigmatising it - which may include posters on the back of toilet doors, including advice in your on boarding process and building it in to the job design (expectation levels and ways of working for that role)
  • Develop a clear policy on how mental health is covered in your sickness/absence policy; and possibly others like staff code of conduct and/or safeguarding policies

A part of this risk assessment is including the impact in your crisis management plans.  How do you respond to traumatic events and what support is given to the team dealing with it?  What’s your debriefing and support procedures for staff & public affected?

If you’re an artist working in topic areas that could lead to an impact on your mental health then ensure you take care of yourself.  Consider getting involved in any of the above; educating yourself, organising a meet-up with other individuals, or accessing an industry counselling service.  Also, regardless of your type of work - REMEMBER TO GET DAYLIGHT.  Being stuck at a desk, or sleeping all day isn’t good in the long term.  Get out and soak up that vitamin D.

Recognise that as a company or individual, those out touring work can be especially impacted, and designing ways to support when on the road is important - who takes lead (maybe a Company Stage Manager) - and what is available on the road.

There is much to be done for supporting those who are self-employed; time off is sometimes not an option.  But remember to explore benevolent support from the likes of ’Stage Hand’ or from any membership organisations or unions in which you may be a part.  Systemic change is needed in the workplace - help make it happen when you can.

Theatre Helpline is one such counselling support line you can try:

Remember, I’m reciting points made by panelists and speakers at PLASA Show 2018, with a little added research.  You should always consult professionals who know your individual circumstances when making business or health decisions.


Emrys Green

Emrys Green Voice Team

Emrys is the Business & Projects manager at Upstart who runs Voice.

Alongside managing Voice and its related programmes of work Emrys manages web builds and live events through his own pursuits - with a wide encapsulation of the arts sector. Theatre, Dance, Circus, Spoken Word and a combination of contemporary and shakespearean work would all be in his wheelhouse.

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  • Bee Snellen

    On 5 December 2018, 12:46 Bee Snellen Voice Team commented:

    Some excellent tips, Emrys! I'm definitely going to implement some of these. I had no idea notifications were that disruptive!

  • On 5 December 2018, 12:58 [Deleted User] commented:

    Good article!

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