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Interview with an Event Manager

By BossMay 29th, 2013

Our Director of Education Claire Derrick kindly took the time out of her very busy schedule to share her experience and expertise in Event Management. Claire is a highly qualified events, marketing and training practitioner.
What was your first full-time job?
My first job was as a Systems Administrator with a Software company – I looked after the marketing database ensuring all records were kept updated and the data was ‘clean’. I was also responsible for creating marketing lists and sorting data for the different departments. I also got involved in organising staff away days and the annual Christmas Party – that’s probably where I developed a love of the events industry.
How did you get into Event Management?
After returning from travelling around the world after University, I got a job with a London-based charity called Children Nationwide (now Wellchild). My time was split between PA duties for the Chief Executive and helping the Events Manager – after helping to organise my first charity ball I knew that events were what I wanted to do as a career.
 What was the first event you helped to organise?
The first large event I ever organised was a charity ball at The Banqueting House, Whitehall – a very beautiful venue with the most amazing ceiling painted by Rubens. The event went off without a hitch but one thing did happen that could have been disastrous – the ladies toilets flooded. I liaised with the venue staff who worked quickly and efficiently to stop the flood and clean the toilets (it all happened during the main course of dinner, so most guests did not even notice!).
Please tell us about the toughest event you have organised.
I was approached by a client who needed to organise a large scale, high profile celebrity event at a 5-star London hotel…in ten days time!
I smiled and said that would not be a problem (but inside I was shaking like a leaf and wondering how on earth I would be able to organise everything to the high standard that I know the client required). To cut a long story short I had very little sleep and had to control my stress levels, but managed to put the event together, source and brief in celebrity guests, invite and welcome 450 guests and manage a team of 40 staff. Phew – I get tired even thinking about it now!
What is the best advice you would give to someone who is thinking about going into event management?
Become immersed in the event industry right now. Potential employers are looking for new recruits who are really interested in the industry and have lots of experience of either attending events, organising them or volunteering at them. It is also essential that you have a level of knowledge of how to logistically put an event together – there is no point in applying for jobs that you are not able to do.  Our Diploma in Event Management or Postgraduate Diploma in Event Management courses are great for giving students the real-life skills needed for the industry.
What does it take to be a good event manager?

  1. Attention to detail – you must have a good eye for every aspect of the event journey and be committed to creating the best events that you possibly can.
  2. A sense of humour – be able to laugh at yourself and maintain a good spirit even when things go wrong.
  3. You must like working with people – event management is a team effort and always involves guests or attendees. It sounds a bit ridiculous but if you prefer working alone or don’t really like engaging with people then the industry will not be for you.
  4. Stamina – you must be physically fit and emotionally strong. Events can be very stressful and can affect your health if you let them. You must be able to work hard, but know when to rest and recuperate in preparation for your next event!
  5. Be able to take constructive criticism – We are all human and make mistakes. Even after 22 years in the industry I always learn a new lesson with every event I organise – I view this as a positive thing and am glad that I am still able to learn from any mistakes I make. You need to do the same.
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