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Life as an event prof – the industry’s future leaders share all

Tomorrow's-Talent-Winners-2023

One of the great things about working in the events industry is the breadth of roles available, from venue finding and managing events on the agency side, to corporate, charity and association roles, as well as hotels, venues and tourism boards. 

No matter your skillset or passion, there’s a role to suit every personality, as demonstrated by this year’s Tomorrow’s Talent winners, who represent 10 of the brightest rising stars in the UK events industry. The Meetings Show’s Tomorrow’s Talent initiative – now in its fifth year – champions talented newcomers to the industry and provides a platform for nurturing and supporting future leaders.

We caught up with some of the 2023 cohort to find out more about their day-to-day roles, proud moments and what they love about working in the events industry, to showcase the diversity of the sector and inspire those interested in working in events to take the plunge…

Variety is the spice of life

Laura Pike, senior project manager at global agency DRPG, sums up life as an event prof perfectly: “I love that no day is the same. Each event I have delivered is so different and I find that I am constantly faced with new challenges, but from this, always learning something new.”

Working in DRPG’s Live Division, Pike’s role is to organise a range of events for corporate clients including conferences, exhibitions and digital experiences. She is responsible for taking the initial brief, leading the client through the planning process, managing the client budget, handling all delegate and supplier logistics, and then delivering the event onsite. “I am also a Team Leader and currently manage a team of seven project executives/project managers. Being a manager is something I really enjoy about my current role. I find it very rewarding to share my experience and watch my team succeed,” she adds.

Harriet Warren, venue find team lead, Meeting & Events UK, Reed & Mackay, also loves the non-stop variety and the fact that each client and each day is different. “Every brief is exciting; I’m fortunate enough to have such a broad range of business opportunities with our client base – we get typical corporate requests and then creative ones where I can constantly learn and grow my knowledge.”

Reed & Mackay’s Warren shares her favourite event moment: “With a past agency, we booked an incentive group into Nice and Cannes. The programme had helicopter transfers, dinner on a yacht, some celebrity lookalikes, some clay ‘handprints’ of their own outside the Palais des Festivals (just like the celebs), vintage cars, and a private villa pool party with “paparazzi” (who published their photos overnight in a newspaper that was delivered to them with breakfast). The vision was to make the high performers of our client company feel like a celebrity – and they certainly did.”

Working with clients from all different walks of life and industries is one of the things that Malcolm Farrell-Mitchell, senior business development manager – UK & Europe for Business Events Perth, enjoys most. “Most of my clients host large international conferences and I get the great fortune of deep diving into their world, learning about what it is they do and seeing if my beautiful state might be a place to host their event. I’ll be talking to a marine biologist in the morning, to a paediatric oncologist at midday, finishing off with a lawyer in the afternoon and, as they say, variety is the spice of life.”

Unforgettable highs

Delivering live events can be hard work and challenging at times, but there are so many highs that make it all worthwhile, according to Becca Shinner, events officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “I love seeing a project from start to finish. In between all the chaos of the planning before an event, I love the sense of calm and satisfaction on event delivery day and of course getting to meet all our amazing supporters and researchers,” she says.

“When you see how much our events shine a light on our amazing work as a charity and you get to meet those who are personally affected by dementia, you realise why we do our work and I feel extremely grateful to be a part of such a great organisation.”

Ella Wilson, venue sourcing specialist at ACE Bookings, says one of her favourite events was organising the AIEA (Alliance of Independent Event Agencies) summer carnival in 2019. “Having only joined ACE at the start of 2019, it was amazing to be part of an extremely successful event so early on in my career.  However, 2023 is also proving to be a favourite year so far. We have held many successful events for our key clients and been on some wonderful FAM trips.”

Working in the events industry also comes with its perks, from travelling to glamorous locations and enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences. “As the Promotional Event Services Provider of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, I got to experience the opening ceremony ahead of the event, which was inspiring. We also got to attend some of the competition days, and it was lovely to feel the buzz in my hometown of Birmingham,” says Jenna Border, senior account manager at DRPG.

There are also those events that are memorable, yet challenging. Alex Chesters of Palace Events, which supplies equipment to the event industry, recalls organising The UK’s Most Extreme Cinema in the Lake District: “We transported people up an incredibly steep gravel track road, only accessible to 4×4 vehicles, with the cinema screening situated inside a working slate mine in a mountain. The entire process of getting all the site built and audience access was a huge challenge.”

The sky’s the limit

From dream events to dream jobs, the sky really is the limit in terms of the path you can take in the industry and how quickly you can progress – some of the Tomorrow’s Talent winners are already running their own businesses. After studying International Events Management at university and a variety of event-related roles, Amy Woodthorpe, MD at Search & Source, was approached to invest in an established venue finding agency in 2018 at the age of 25.

“I had to make the decision to either buy a house or buy a business! You can guess which option I went for. I bought Venues For Business Ltd in early 2019 and then rebranded to Search & Source (our new trading name) in 2022. I now have a team of three and we source venues globally for corporate clients. Personally, my best moment was realising and appreciating recently how far I have come and how successful my events business is, despite so many road bumps and setbacks.”

Like many in the industry, Jessica Hobday, co-founder at VBX Events, was made redundant during the height of the pandemic, but she didn’t let it hold her back. “In August 2020, I had a crazy moment and decided I wanted to start my own events business. I spent a year funding it myself, looking for opportunities and trying to enter the market with virtual platforms. A year later I was fortunate enough to take on a business partner, and now VBX is working with some leading global companies, we have an amazing team, and are aiming to turnover £1.5 million in year two – it’s an achievement I have always dreamed of.”

Chesters was also reluctant to let the pandemic halt career plans. He used the quieter time to complete an enterprise course with The Princes Trust which led him to launch a business delivering outdoor cinema events in the North West: “As the success of these events grew, so too did our stock of infrastructure to deliver events, which lead to the launch of Palace Events. We offer equipment hire and services to the events industry,” he says, urging anyone interested in events to just ‘give it a go’.

“Having started at the bottom and worked my way up to now running my own business, I certainly don’t know all the answers or how to get everything right. My advice is, try to gain as much experience as possible, with as many companies as possible, whilst you are still young. Whilst you are still at school, make the most of your time and lack of financial commitments to test out different areas of event work and see which you prefer the most. Also don’t be afraid to ask for advice, working in the events industry has always felt incredibly welcoming and people will usually always make time if you are seeking advice and help.”

The Tomorrow’s Talent Winners will be at The Meetings Show

The Tomorrow’s Talent winners will be attending The Meetings Show at ExCeL London on 28 and 29 June as VIP guests ahead of their celebratory lunch that is set to take place later this year. There are various ways to register to the show, which will be co-located with Business Travel Show Europe and TravelTech Show.  To find out more about the buyer, hosted buyer and visitor registration options, visit: https://www.themeetingsshow.com/register.