With the end of the academic year, thoughts are turning to the future for many teenagers and young adults about to set foot into the working world. But for many, the career ladder can seem a confusing climb — what’s out there? What’s the best role to suit your skills?
Whether you’re launching a career in marketing, or are looking to change paths, I’ve sat down with Laura McGrath, events manager of Quorum Business Park, provider of office space to rent in Newcastle, UK, to explore a job role that is exciting, engaging, and certainly rewarding.
Q: What does an events manager do? What duties and responsibilities do you have?
A: Events Management is all about engagement – you can host anything you like but you need to communicate and encourage people to come. The planning of the events only takes up a small part of the role – it’s the network building and communications strategy that takes up the biggest chunk of time.
Event Days are pretty hectic with set up and disassembly often taking longer than the event itself but days are fast paced and loads of fun.
There is no such thing as a typical day for me, but an event day usually involves an early start as I like to be the first to arrive, slowly watching an event build around you is great – going from an empty marquee to watching over a thousand people stroll around a food event is so exciting to be involved with.
Q: How did you become an events manager?
A: I became interested in Events Management after a previous role involved charity fundraising – after raising nearly £2,000 ($2,500) while dressed as Katy Perry for Comic Relief, I realized I had a knack for engaging with people and that enthusiasm really is contagious. That role was based at Quorum so I already knew the girls at The Hub and when a space on the team became available, they knew I was a good fit.
My particular role also involves engaging staff in sustainability – something I am very passionate about. To be able to find a role that involved one of my greatest strengths with one of my biggest passions has been such a great opportunity.
Q: What about the job gets you out of bed on a morning?
A: I love having a role where I get to manage my own calendar completely – each year starts with a completely blank canvas and I get to fill it with whatever I think will work.
Not everything will be a success, but I really enjoy the trial and error of finding what does work. I also enjoy being able to get behind causes and current trends – we recently hosted a second-hand clothes swap after learning about the impacts of fast fashion, and we’ve done some great charity campaigns.
For me, the great relationships I’ve built with vendors, partners and staff onsite are what keep me coming back for more.
Q: If you conducted an interview for an events manager, what three questions would you ask and why? What traits would you be looking for?
A: First things first, I would need to know they were confident engaging with the public – you must be comfortable and approach things with a smile on your face regardless of how you actually feel – everyone wants to feel welcome.
Secondly, I’d ask for an example of their innovation and creativity – events management is a competitive market, if a good idea comes along and everyone starts doing it, to really stand out you need to be ahead of the curve with fun and engaging ideas.
Thirdly I’d ask them to demonstrate how well they work under their own steam. Very often in Events Management you’re a jack of all trades, taking on lots of roles with little guidance from others, you need to manage your time and prioritize your tasks, trusting you’ll give yourself enough time to get everything done – plus making sure you do all the ‘boring admin’ bits as well as the more fun stuff.
Q: What is the most challenging event you’ve managed?
A: Last year’s Christmas Market was very tough; there was a blanket of heavy rain from the start to the end of the event and it was the first year hosted in a new indoor location that proved a bit of a logistical nightmare.
It’s hard not to let bad weather get you down – but you literally can’t do anything about it – work with what you’ve got and always have wet weather contingency plans in place. Always remember, if an event is quieter in bad weather – you’ve done all you can, reset your expectations and be thankful of those who make the effort regardless of rain!
Q: If something goes awry during an event, what top tricks do you have to keep everything under control?
A: Make sure you have enough people covering an event – you need enough people that should someone suddenly need to dash if anything comes up – your event won’t fall apart.
Always have a bit of flexibility in your day – nothing is ever exactly to timetable; the more freedom you have the more you can improvise – trust me, no one will know the difference if you make a few tweaks on the day to keep things running!
Finally, make sure everyone knows exactly what is expected of them on the day. Send an up-to-date event plan with roles and responsibilities identified – or else you’ll end up taking them all on yourself!
Q: Work-life balance is important. How do you unwind after a hard day at work?
A: I try and keep active during the week, with gym classes, bike rides and walking my rescue dog, Chaplin – but I also love to unwind at home in front of a good box set.
To me, work life balance is more about having flexibility in your working day to manage anything that crops up – so being able to work from home on occasion helps contribute to feeling balanced at home.
Q: Finally, what’s the best thing about being an events manager at a site like Quorum Business Park?
A: My days are super varied. It’s rarely the same thing twice – which I love. Some days I’m hosting Christmas Markets with over 1,200 people in attendance, other days I’m giving presentations about health and wellbeing in the workplace.
This year I’ve particularly enjoyed developing networks across the site; we have an active LGBT committee, a women’s networking event and wildlife group volunteers – sometimes all meeting in the same week!
It really feels like a community here at Quorum. We’ve been through a lot together; triathlon swims, 24-hour football games, puppy visits and BBQs – once you have a great network of people to rely on when it comes to sharing your message, you can get anything done!