Choosing a career isn’t just about working out your preferred way of making a living. It’s also about discovering how you fit into the world. And, for many people, that’s difficult. The best way to narrow down what you’re after is to speak with people in the workforce to get an idea of what their job involves on a day-to-day basis. Each month Upskilled will be reaching out to people who have succeeded in a variety of industries to gain insight into what they do and what it takes to excel in their field.
This month we caught up with Emma Stevens, Events and Marketing Coordinator at Ernst & Young, to find out what it’s like to work in events. Her specialties include marketing and event planning as well as social media. Emma held several positions in events and management prior to joining the professional services firm.
Her qualifications include:
– Bachelor of Communications & Media Studies, Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
– Diploma of Event Planning
– Graduate Certificate of Chartered Accounting Principles
We spoke to Emma regarding the types of duties she’s called upon to undertake each day as well as what it takes to succeed in this highly competitive field.
Upskilled: What does your job involve?
Emma: I’m a marketing and event coordinator and I’m involved with the day-to-day delivery of events for our clients and staff. I put on a variety of things, from boardroom lunches to information sessions and cocktail parties. And sometimes we host special guests.
Upskilled: You’re currently employed with EY. Was that your first position in events?
Emma: No, my first job after I finished studying was as an event coordinator with a cruise company.
Upskilled: Could you run us through an average day on the job – if there is such a thing?
Emma: There’s not really such a thing as an average day, but I guess if I was working on an event – well – if it wasn’t the actual day of the event – I’d get to work, check my emails, talk with the corporate hospitality team, order some catering, check on our RSVPs, maybe make an invitation for another event. Then I might talk with some key stakeholders, perhaps with the partners of the firm, about different events coming up.
I might also attend a number of meetings regarding different strategies for the year ahead.
If it was the day of an event I might liaise with the styling team and make sure they’re okay to set up, help set up the event room to make sure it’s how I like it, and check that catering is ready to go. And then there’s registration. When guests arrive I greet them and provide nametags, if necessary. Potentially I go into the event to make sure everything is going okay.
Upskilled: That sounds like a lot of networking and organising.
Emma: Definitely. It’s very people heavy so if you don’t like people it’s the wrong industry to be in. There’s a lot of talking to people and finding out what people want to achieve from an event. You don’t just throw events for the sake of it.
Upskilled: You’ve mentioned people skills, but what other skills do you need to succeed?
Emma: You need to be organised and have good time management skills because you’re working to a lot of deadlines. At the events you need everything to be ordered and ready to go. Attention to detail helps a lot; you don’t want to overlook any parts of the event.
And generally you have to be a positive person because things always go wrong! You have to be able to handle that in a positive way, especially when there are clients around.
Upskilled: Could you give us an example of something going wrong and the solution you came up with?
Emma: That’s putting me on the spot! I was doing a major event in Melbourne and our venue had overbooked and let people into our area. We couldn’t set up for our event and our guests were coming back for lunch. We had another smaller area available so we moved the food and drinks there and used it as a holding room until we found a suitable time to move the event back into the main room.
Upskilled: Prior to getting your initial role at the cruise company, were you looking for a role in event management or did you simply meet the right people at the right time?
Emma: I have a degree in marketing and a certificate in events management, so I guess I was looking for something in marketing initially.
But I do love planning events. I always did it socially and throughout school. So I was looking for a role that would allow me to plan but also allow for a lot of engagement with people and customers.
Upskilled: Was it tough trying to get that first opportunity?
Emma: Yes, it was. There’s a lot of competition – people want to be event planners. There are also a lot of different paths now. You don’t have to go to university. For instance, you can do an Upskilled course. A lot of people are heading down this path because it is so accessible. You have to set yourself apart from the rest and it’s not easy. Job hunting is never easy.
Upskilled: What’s the best advice you’d give someone aspiring to be an event planner?
Emma: Definitely get as much hands-on experience as you can, whether it’s from volunteering at a fun run, or helping out with a friend’s party. If you’re at school, get involved with the formal committee – anything where you can start to understand the organisation that’s involved and have experience in organising events, be they large or small in scale.
Upskilled: What are the best and the most challenging things about being in events?
Emma: The best is when you look around the room and everyone is smiling and laughing and having a good time without a care in the world. That’s when you know you’ve put on a good event. So I guess client satisfaction is the ultimate goal.
The most challenging element is pleasing everyone. And you have to remember that you can’t please everyone. You might have what you think is the perfect event, but someone will say something negative about it. And that’s just the way it is, and that comes back to that positive attitude and rolling with the punches.
Upskilled: Moving forward with event management in general, can you see any big trends on the horizon that people entering the industry should know about?
Emma: I guess it depends what industry you want to go into. For me, I’m in professional services so it’s quite different compared with someone going into another area. It’s not so much that there are trends in the events industry like there are trends in the labour market generally. Events are never going to go away. People like to engage with one another through events so it’s a safe area of employment.
But there are always changes coming related to the digital world. I’d expect we’ll be using apps more at events and utilising new forms of technology. The days of paper invitations are long behind us.
Have you ever tried to change career paths? Did you succeed and what sort of challenges did you face?