Climbing the #eventprof ladder
After ten years in senior events roles, during which time I’ve hired several first time event managers who are now running teams and companies elsewhere, I was invited to talk about which attributes and behaviours mark out an event manager destined for the top, at the inaugural Eventprofs Dublin meetup in June 2018.
1. If you can do everything, you can do anything. The very best way to become a good hiring manager and an effective leader, is to develop competencies in all the areas of work your team is responsible for. This doesn’t mean being the best at everything – you should always look to hire people who are more skilled than you – but the more you can understand what a role requires, the better placed you will be to hire the right person to fill it and the better you will be able to manage them and offer advice on the challenges.
2. Work for your team, not anyone else. As your team grows, it is important to demonstrate leadership by trusting them to make the big decisions and giving them the space they need to grow creatively. Give them enough latitude to make mistakes, safe in the knowledge that you are providing ‘cloud cover’ for their activities. Be available to them at all times, in case they need any help, but limit everyone else’s access to you, to make it difficult for the rest of the business to go over their heads by talking directly to you.
3. Be prepared to take risks. Most businesses are risk-averse, which can make ‘interesting’ or expensive proposals difficult to sell inwards. Don’t be afraid of running events which look impossible on paper: work out the logistical solution and push it through. By hiring you, the business has bought into your imagination and can-do attitude. Repay the favour by taking it to heights it cannot fathom.
4. Be the one to make tough decisions. Promotion and power depend on trust: the business needs to depend on you to know the difference between ‘impossible’ and actually impossible, and to mitigate its risks accordingly, by cancelling an event, pivoting the strategy or dealing with poorly performing staff. If you are descending into a slow motion car crash because you can’t do any of the above, communicate this clearly and make sure the failure is well documented enough for the business to learn from its mistakes.
5. Climb every three years. Event management is a cyclical discipline, where work is repeated (usually each year). In your first year, you should learn how to do the events, in your second you should apply the lessons learned to improve it, and in your third year, you should perfect the model by running it as well as you are capable of doing. After this point, you need to be promoted or find another job. No event has ever been made better by the same person running it for eight consecutive years.
6. Follow the learning, not the earning. Any career-minded #eventprof should constantly be on the lookout for fresh challenge. Never apply for a job you are 100% confident you can do with one hand tied behind your back; leave any role which doesn’t teach you anything; find the job you are interested in and negotiate the money up to a place which is acceptable to you. As long as you can earn enough to live, creative fulfilment is so much more valuable than money. But make them pay you more anyway!
If you find this useful, please share with friends and colleagues. A slideshare of this The Guide to Events presentation can be downloaded here.