Yes. Each event is a separate project, and they rarely have anything to do with each other. The only common point is that I am in charge of ‘making them happen’. Usually these events are with different teams, for example at Accountancy Europe, I have to coordinate with the whole team. With a few colleagues I meet for event A; with others for event B; and with a few we have maybe 4 events in the pipeline at the same time. Each event has its ‘Event team’, topic, timeline and style (can be conference, breakfast meeting, roundtable or networking event for example, all in one month).
Why event projects are a great way to learn PM?
When you have to deliver an event, it means you must have a clear objective and find your steps to achieve it. This can be difficult or easy, a lot depends on you, your vision and your self-organisation. If you don’t have a clear plan with milestones, deadlines, without knowing who does what and when, you will be quite lost and stressed.
Before I started to organise events, I heard a lot about project management and that it will be the future of how companies and institutions will structure their work. When I was in the second year of my studies and I discovered how I function and I want to do something very practical, I didn’t have an idea how events are organised really. When I look back today, I build my steps, my processes on a way that I feel everything is under control, I was not very conscious about if the steps are aligned with project management processes but actually, they are. That tought me about project management from another angle.
How did you learn to do your job?
The simple answer is: by doing it. The longer answer has several angles to this question.
Firstly: thanks to different type of events. I am organising events since 2011 and I have organised one week long Model NATO Youth Summit (as a social events officer team member at that time). I was in charge of the ‘fun and party’ but the event was a NATO Summit simulation, with a diplomatic angle. It was a life changing experience for me in 2013. After that, when I joined JCI, we organised again very different type of events. In the coming years, I started to take more ‘coordinating roles’ like having a team on ‘Logistics and Operations’. Later this evolved to Conference Director, all in a volunteer-based organisation.
Secondly: different experiences (easy and simple vs difficult and complicated) I had very different experiences with sometimes the same type of events. This tought me to refine my method and stay very flexible. I believe, more you master the organisation, more flexible you can allow yourself to be.
Thirdly: As I mentioned, I started very small during my studies. I think when you learn something on a theoretical level, it’s hard to grasp how will that happen in real life. My experience of building this knowledge up step by step allowed me to get a real feeling of how things go and learn to eliminate unnecessary steps or define, redefine them and sometimes invent them myself.
I graduated from Political Science because thanks to this, I understand the different debates, challenges of our society much better. This helps me in my current roles as Event manager and Freelance Event consultant. I can better serve my clients, as my side business is addressed not only to companies but institutions, embassies, NGOs dealing with various topics on EU level.
What is next in learning for you to keep improving?
Although I can be kind of hyperactive, being an introvert person, I really like to work behind the scenes. That is why organising an event fits my personality. I like it when people don’t notice me and say: “this went so smooth.” I feel a real joy! My biggest fear was to be in the spotlight, having people listening to me. During my studies, it was so bad, I couldn’t talk normally, and I almost said I would never present in front of others. It took me a lot of efforts to overcome this fear and dare to talk in front of an audience. After taking some trainings on presentation and having the opportunity to do presentations at Accountancy Europe, I am much more comfortable now. Today I am giving trainings and presentations about various topics. The next thing I would like to improve, is to master further my presentation, public speaking and pitching skills. Next to this, I would like to find the best method of teaching event management.
What are the general 3 top lesson you learned?
- There is no only ONE ‘right way’ to organise an event. There are different methods and I need to change my approach depending on the people (team dynamic and work environment), different situations and different organisations. For example, how to work with a team of volunteers or employees can be very different.
- Be flexible and let it go: on certain things I can decide in advance but on certain other things, it is just not possible in advance and I need to see in the given moment how to act/decide.
- Treat everybody with special care: everybody is equally important and not only you have to treat them all with the same respect (speakers, participants, service suppliers), but I very much believe in making the extra mile and give the special attention to each people. Even if it’s not required, the event business is people’s business, and I love to see the happy smiles.