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Tomorrow’s world: Future-gazing with the Tomorrow’s Talent 2021 cohort

M&IT talks to the winners of this year’s Tomorrow’s Talent about how the industry can continue to attract new talent and help safeguard its future.

The Meetings Show’s Tomorrow’s Talent initiative champions talented newcomers to the industry and provides a platform for nurturing, mentoring and supporting the industry leaders of the future. 

We spoke to this year’s cohort – 10 sharp, under-30s – to find out their thoughts on the industry and how it can continue to keep the very best talent knocking on the door.

Winner Naomi Hollas, who founded Event Grads – a global community and support network for aspiring event professionals – in 2020, and who reflects the wants for inclusiveness expressed by all the winners, is the perfect person to start.

“I’d love to see more communication and collaboration between industry and education, as education in any capacity is vital to the development and professionalisation of the industry,” she says.

“Plus, to continue working towards and supporting industry-wide sustainability, accessibility and wellbeing goals to ensure the industry is a safe and inclusive space for all.”

Staff shortages

Staff shortages are a concern for the events industry and it’s an issue that the Tomorrow’s Talent winners have highlighted when asked about the future of the industry.

“People have seen other industries that aren’t as risky and offer great benefits, such as tech, taking off,” remarks Hannah Robinson, senior venue sales and events planner at London venue BMA House.

“Events will need to offer security, safety, virtual options and flexible packages to attract new talent. This is a great industry, but we need to adapt to the changing times.”

Narmeen Kamran, founder of industry podcast Desert Island Events (which she launched last year) who is speaking in an education session at The Meetings Show at ExCeL London on 30 September, has a similar point of view.

“[The event industry] can’t attract new talent if it stays in the same cycle. For so long we have been glamorising long hours and little pay as the norm when it really shouldn’t be like that. We need to acknowledge our issues instead of shying away from them and openly advocate and implement change.”

Charli Briggs, whose work as founder/director at teambuilder Eventure Experiences impressed the Tomorrow’s Talent judges, stresses the value in a walkable, workable bridge across the gap between the industry and those newcomers looking for a way in.

“It’s crucial that companies present opportunities for people who do not yet have experience but are passionate to be involved in the meetings and events industry. They will naturally adopt a sleeves-rolled-up approach and be willing to go above and beyond,” she says.

Kate Hutchinson, managing director of event organisers the Secret Event Service, agrees that newcomers need to be given the chance to prove themselves.

Making a difference

“It takes guts on behalf of leaders and managers to hand over preciously held responsibility to those new starters in the industry, but when we do, in my experience, we all benefit,” she says.

“Young people are driven by making a difference and by doing unique and amazing things. A career in events absolutely offers that.”

Apprenticeships and mentoring programmes have been invaluable for a large percentage of the Tomorrow’s Talent winners and they’d like to see more of this.

Like countless others starting out in the business, Eleanor Harding, now senior events organiser at Age UK, found it hard to get the experience needed, so says she would like to see more opportunities for younger people.

“The Fast Forward 15 mentoring programme was invaluable in terms of helping me to get more exposure in the industry and I would love to see more schemes like that available to help event professionals to reach their goals,” she enthuses.

Clementine Crowther, events coordinator at the Mid-Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, is another fan of mentoring. That interaction with practised professionals, she says, is a great way to attract new talent.

The name of the company fellow winner Katie Politt founded last year, EW Mentoring, highlights a similar approach.

“This is an industry that thrives off networking and connections and creating a safe space for newcomers can provide a really positive experience to build on throughout their career,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to become comfortable and confident networking with others in similar positions alongside industry professionals wanting to support them and it is one of the foundations of EM Mentoring.”

Schools and universities

Lauren Mousley is – with her own emphasis – a HUGE advocate for the meetings and events industry being involved with schools and universities; “not only to give real-life perspective,” she explains, “but to allow younger people to start their network in the industry and hear about all the career paths available.”

By way of example Mousley, senior event planner at Gilead Sciences, stresses that she didn’t know a single thing about pharmaceutical events after four years studying for a degree in events management. She has therefore made it her mission to speak at as many universities as possible about her journey to inspire new talent.

Returning to the theme of recovery, Ben Rands, director of events at OMFIF (Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum) who had some experience in hospitality ahead of studying International Event Management at the University of Brighton, is keen to see what the next couple of years do for the events industry and how it will rebalance post-COVID-19.

“The sudden expansion of virtual events, forced upon us by the pandemic, has created some fantastic new opportunities for us to attract new talent,” he suggests

“With remote working becoming the norm for many, we are no longer restricted to employing those in commuting distance from the office. This can allow us to access a wider geographical pool of talent. We can perhaps take this a stage further and use it as an opportunity to engage with event students through part-time employment or work experience schemes.”

Powerful positive thinking, as the world slowly finds its feet again, from the events industry’s brightest new stars.

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