When you meet someone for the first time outside of work one of the first questions that comes up is ‘what do you do for a living?’ I always find this question slightly awkward. I’m not bold enough to say from the offset that ‘I run my own corporate event business specialising in live events, exhibitions and employee engagement with offices across the Middle East, Asia and Europe’.
I feel that would sound boastful and too much information when meeting someone for the first time so I often just say ‘Event management’. People who are outside my industry immediately say something along the lines of ‘Great! Maybe you can help with my daughters forthcoming third birthday party!’
I know absolutely nothing about planning a child’s birthday party. The extent of my experience in three year olds birthday parties is that I recently attended my niece’s third birthday party! I usually then start to explain to the person that I’ve just met that I specialise in corporate events which is a role that usually supports the marketing function of a business.
A recent study by US-based CareerCast ranked the ‘Event coordinator role’ as the fifth most stressful job. The only jobs ranked more stressful were military personnel, fire fighter, airline pilot and police officer.
After hearing that statistic, you can probably imagine that the event industry is not as glamorous as people often think. In fact it’s usually the complete opposite when at events. You usually have bags under your eyes because you’ve been working long hours on the lead up to the event, you’ve been so busy that you haven’t had time to eat a decent meal and your feet hurt. Really hurt.
After my first couple of projects, I quickly swapped my stilettos for a comfy pair of Crocs (not the ugly Crocs with the holes in, they now make shoes that are much trendier but still very comfortable). This probably sound cliché but one of my favourite things about working in the events industry is the variation. No day is the same. One day I could be working on conference in Dubai, the next week I could be at an exhibition in Oman and then a product launch in Saudi Arabia the week after.
Working in the events industry is a bit like marmite. Some people take like a duck to water whilst others have a tough time and quickly end up quitting for something less stressful with more sociable hours.
There are definitely some key skills and personality traits needed to work in the event industry such as acute attention to detail, excellent communication skills and the ability to multitask. I often envisage my job like Greek plate spinners. There are tens, sometimes hundreds of plates that I have to keep spinning and every now and again one of the plates slows down, wobbles and I have to make sure it doesn’t fall off and get it back in sync with the other plates.
At TEC we are regularly contacted by students who want to get into the events industry. I am also regularly asked how I got into event management.
After my A Levels I knew I wanted to go to university and scrolling through the various courses available, event management kept popping up. Not being very academic, this seemed like the perfect course for me.
In all honesty, my time studying event management is not something I have ever looked back on during my career and thought ‘Oh yes, I learnt this at uni’ and put my studies into action.
For me, university was a great stepping stone from living with my parents to becoming independent but I don’t think it’s essential for anyone who wants to work in the events industry to go to university to study event management. In fact I would probably advise to do a more generic course such as marketing or business and then specialise in events later on.
Working in events is very practical and not one event is the same which is why I think for anyone who wants to get into event management, going down the route of getting plenty of work experience is essential.
The great thing about the event industry is that experience is something that can be gained from a young age such as helping teachers arrange a school trip to organising a community event in your local area to being on the prom committee.
I grew up in a small village in rural England so events were few and far between. Living in the UAE provides budding event managers with a great opportunity. The UAE’s calendar is packed with concerts, sporting and cultural events that can provide invaluable work experience so anyone trying to work out if the events industry is for them should start volunteering today!