Gareth Gallagher Has Written A Book About Overcoming the Killer Stress of the Events Industry

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on June 2, 2023

Gareth Gallagher, founder and CEO of EVT Media,  doesn’t look at all stressed. He certainly doesn’t look like a man who for years worked at the pinnacle of the events management industry, legendary for being only slightly less stressful than first responder or infantry soldier. But the face on the Zoom screen for our interview is the face of an author who has just published a book about how job and personal stress drove years of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Gareth Gallagher, with his athletic and boyish looks at age 42, seems the personification of equanimity (his British accent helps), which doubtless was a big asset when dealing with difficult clients demanding the near-impossible to make their pet event a sensation. His new book, Eventually Gareth, scheduled for release June 8, is subtitled “Truth and lies of the events industry.”

Gallagher works in the stratosphere of the events industry, planning and managing events around the world for corporate clients and the very wealthy. Between the demands of clients and the inherent problems of coordinating locations, caterers, transportation, and much more, the constant stress wore him down, debilitated his health, and left him relying on drugs and booze to cope. We talked recently about his career and personal stress (he’s had plenty of that, too) and his healthier alternatives for managing stress.

The transcripted interview has been edited for clarity and ease of reading.

Peter Page: Are you still in the events business?

Gareth Gallagher: I’m still in the events business. Yeah. I’ve been in it for 25 years and have been running my own business for the last ten-plus years. I’ve had the pleasure of working in 42 countries, running events, everything from a five person executive retreat through to an event with tens of thousands of people, medical conferences, etc. It’s been fascinating.

Peter Page: Just in the couple of minutes that we’ve talked you don’t seem like the stressed out guy I was expecting. Are you different now from how you were doing prior to, for lack of a better word, your breakdown?

Gareth Gallagher: There’s no question. I’m a totally different person than I was before I got sober and clean from drugs and alcohol.

I was very high functioning. My self-worth, my self esteem and validation were through my career. And I still have absolutely high expectations for what we do. The difference is we create a very loving, equal partnership with clients rather than being dictated to. We just won’t work with being dictated to by the client. And we walked away from a major client this year because they didn’t have the best interests of the team at heart.

We are not going to break our necks anymore to pacify a client, whereas we used to do a lot of that in the past. Before we have an event, whoever the project team is, we have a counseling session before they go to the event and one when they come back. That’s one of the many changes we have made because we’re in an industry that is driven by excess, driven by stress levels. It’s in the top five most stressful jobs in the world to do. We put priority into our people to make sure that we give them the support that they need to address some of these issues that come up on events.

Peter Page: How stressful are we talking?

Gareth Gallagher: I’ve been in three bombings, I’ve been in an earthquake. I’ve been trapped in a basement for 17 hours with clients during one of China’s worst cyclones. When you’re dealing with crisis in such a traumatic way, you have a different grasp on life. We’re not “yes” people for clients anymore.

We had a client in January that was calling us at 3 a.m. to get the team out of bed to do what they wanted. And we walked away from that client on a huge job, huge amounts of status and financial credibility. But I made the decision as a business to walk away from it because of the disturbance it was causing to the team and to myself.

Peter Page: Hmm, congratulations. How did you feel after that?

Gareth Gallagher: It’s so empowering, and this is not the first time we’ve done it. We’ve walked away from some of the giants because of the way they treat us. Any partnership, whether its relationship or a friendship, whether it’s a working partnership, there has to be equal give and take and receive. When a client is dictating to you, and I talk about this a lot in my book, it leads to unhealthy behaviors.

The meeting planner was always seen as someone behind the scenes. You only come out when the client wants you out, but you do what the client wants. You definitely don’t eat when they eat and you definitely don’t eat what their attendees are eating. That, over a period of years, can be really damaging. In my case, it created such low self-esteem and unhealthy eating behaviors because you’re constantly eating on the run.

Without us, the client doesn’t have an event. Their messaging and branding can be as great as they want, but without us to facilitate they won’t get that message out. My journey now is teaching clients that we are as important as the event. It’s as simple as that. These lessons have come through a 25-year career of amazing, amazing experiences. I mean, to go through three bombings with thousands of people under your responsibility.

We’ve seen a lot of crises over the last five to seven years. It still bothers me that there are companies that are just so unprepared. They want to go to destinations which are high on the risk list but don’t have a crisis management plan. We are not frightened to say, look, we don’t believe it should be done this way. We are suggesting this way for these reasons.

Peter Page: You said the events business is driven by excess. What do you mean by that?

Gareth Gallagher: We are in an industry that’s driven by drugs and alcohol and excess. I would say this to clients. If you were at the airport having a glass of wine while waiting for your flight, and you discover that the airline captain sitting next to you drinking a bottle of wine is the captain of your plane, are you going to get on that flight? God, no. So, why the hell do you think it’s okay to allow your production teams or event teams to be onsite rigging stages under the influence of alcohol? It’s just not acceptable anymore.

Peter Page: You’ve endured various crises – the bombings, the cyclone, getting shaken down in St. Petersburg (Russia) – but I’m curious about the ordinary background level of stress that you were dealing with. You seem very pleasant and well composed. What were you like before you got clean?

Gareth Gallagher: I really didn’t touch drugs or alcohol until late in my twenties. I don’t like to use this as an excuse, but it really was the death of my mother when I was 26 years old. That really propelled my level of addiction but before that, it was much more social. Alcohol and the drugs were the coping mechanism, especially in the last five years before I cleaned up my act. It kept me going. I always managed to keep it together. I could always show up until I couldn’t. Alcohol and drugs were there when there was a problem and where there when it was a celebration. It helped with the stress, but my belief in God, my belief in life, the universe, whatever is for you, always kept me going.

I have such a deep love for people and such a deep, deep responsibility for people. I think my work was my coping mechanism. I get such validation from taking something so impossible and turning it into something relatable in every possible way. Work became a coping mechanism for me from a very early age. I knew I was good at it. I know I am good at it. We go beyond that extra mile.

One reason why the book is called Eventually Gareth is a play on “events” and eventually getting to who I truly am rather than wearing all of these masks. It was very clear to me from a very early age that whether I somehow attracted these circumstances or I was thrust into them, I had the power and the strength to go through them. Aside from the bombings, the earthquakes, the addiction, I went through many personal tragedies, starting off with the first partner who I was with and the dysfunction. I ended up leaving after it became a very violent, abusive relationship.

Then there was the loss of the mother at a very early age. Add to that the loss of a guy called Matthew, who I was absolutely in love with. I was running one of the biggest events of my life when he died. And my coping mechanism was the show had to go on. When my mum died, the show had to go on. When these bombings happened, the show had to go on and it went on until it couldn’t because the work mechanism became drugs and alcohol. And that’s normalized in this industry. During the late 1990s, the early 2000s in London and the U.K., doing drugs and alcohol on a Friday afternoon was just a normal thing that people did in events, marketing, PR, advertising. Right? Business was done over a bottle of Champagne and bags of cocaine.

Peter Page: It must be stressful that you don’t really control everything. The caterers are not part of your company, and neither are the people who set up the tents, book the band, get people there to the hotel. All of these disparate elements have to be coordinated by the event company. What is your experience of that?

Gareth Gallagher: We are so beholden to third party providers, from transportation through to production. It’s like this mammoth jigsaw puzzle and everything comes together in the last ten days when the stress is through the roof.

We can only be as good as our last supplier. And if something does let you down, which happens all of the time, or somebody pulls out the day before the event because the client hasn’t paid the bill or they’ve overbooked themselves or whatever it might be, that is truly when we excel. Our skill set really lies in the facilitation, the coordination, bringing that all together.

We are the best at what we do when things go wrong. And they do every day. I mean, it doesn’t need to be a bombing. It can be as simple as the catering company mixing-up the menu and suddenly we’re missing a key ingredient and you’re sending the entire team out to every supermarket in the neighborhood to get what we need. We are swans gliding along the surface of the water and paddling like hell underneath it. That’s who we are. It enables the client to focus where they need to put their focus, which is generally strategy and delivering content, and not worrying about the logistical elements that are coming with that.

Peter Page: It sounds like you haven’t soured on the business at all. Are you enjoying it now?

Gareth Gallagher: I don’t love the stress of it, but I absolutely love what we do.

Peter Page: How do you deal with stress these days?

Gareth Gallagher: I meditate and pray. That gets me present in the moment. That’s my biggest outlet for stress. And realizing when a situation is resolvable, when it’s just not. You need to take that stress off yourself to cope with that. My two biggest tools are prayer and meditation. Journaling is also a major stress reliever that I would advocate to anybody.

My other biggest stress relief is I’m a complete fitness fanatic. I go to SoulCycle, I go riding, I go running every day of the week, sometimes two times a day. I think I am addicted to exercise, but it’s a good addiction.

By Peter Page Peter Page has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Journalist verified by Muck Rack verified

Peter Page is an Editor-at-Large at Grit Daily. He is available to record live, old-school style interviews via Zoom, and run them at Grit Daily and Apple News, or BlockTelegraph for a fee.Formerly at, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked as a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.

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