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Nature or nurture: what makes a good event manager?

Sam Robson explores why a mix of innate ability and experience are valuable in equal measures when it comes to being a great event manager, and why attracting new talent is more important than ever…

Can you spot an event manager in the making at break time at a primary school? Are they the bossy one who organises competitions and tells other children what to do, or are they the one inventing new games, which only work if everyone joins in?

Many of the integral skills of event management are perhaps inherited traits such as being able to stay calm under pressure, multi‐tasking and prioritisation, creative and practical idea generation and the ability to both work as part a of team and also to lead a team. But so much of the industry’s excellent event management expertise comes from experience and training – both formal courses, mentoring schemes, educational trips and, most importantly, on the job learning. The foundations of aptitude, attitude and knowledge plus opportunity are the what has made event management such a rewarding and enjoyable career path for me and many others.

The importance of attracting new talent, retaining loyal employees and understanding the value of upskilling, will be more important than ever

University placement schemes for event management students and apprenticeship schemes are an ideal opportunity to recruit younger staff with natural ability and create a perfect opportunity for mentoring and on the job experience. The first challenge is to identify aptitude and attitude in an interview environment and the second is to create the right work environment to teach, encourage and develop.

At TAG, like many other participating agencies, our annual student placement has added to the pool of talented event managers working in the industry today and to two of our current team. TAG’s APAC event director, Jon Pyne, started his events career with TAG in 2010 as a placement student undertaking a huge learning curve working on and then being part of the delivery team for a client’s incentive programme at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Event management comes in many parts and with as many pitfalls. The detail, precision and scrutiny required to plan a complex event comprise a different set of skills to on‐site event delivery, where leadership, effective decision making, communication and managing change are more dominant requirements. Future event directors need to experience the full breadth of the event from pitching to delivery to hone their aptitude, test their attitude and enhance their knowledge. The benefit and value of upskilling is integral to our performance on the world stage.

The COVID‐19 pandemic is testing the very core of the event industry and will result not only in a much leaner sector but also a lack of progression for young talent, who have taken more than a proportional share of redundancy. However, it has offered opportunities to adapt skills and experience into the virtual and hybrid world, which has grown exponentially during the last few months and utilise and teach technical knowledge.

As event budgets are expected to work harder and may not stretch to more experienced professionals, this may be the time for staff in the early part of their career to prove their worth, demonstrate their knowledge and loyalty and take this unique opportunity to change tack and forge a career in the world of digital events. There are still opportunities out there to upskill and embrace virtual.

As we return to some semblance of normal in 2021, the importance of attracting new talent, retaining loyal employees and understanding the value of upskilling, especially now when budgets have been cut, will be more important than ever. Passion and precision are created by nature and enhanced by nurture; our beloved event industry needs experienced professionals to mentor enthusiastic apprentices and keep the live events industry an amazing experience for everyone – delegates, incentive winners and VIP guests who enjoy the conferences, incentives and celebrations and the staff, suppliers, freelancers and producers who create them.

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Sam Robson up events teams and delivery across TAG’s global offices. With a background in PR and marketing, Sam moved into the incentive, conference and live communications industry more than 15 years ago and shares her expertise as an M&IT Expert on the subject of personal development and training.