If your communication skills are lacking then Stu Katzen says you’re not cut out to be an event manager.
It was about five years ago and my then business partner and I were putting together a job brief for a mid-level event manager. Five hours and 15 pages later we had our brief.
I exaggerate, yet the reality is that the range and depth of skills required for our jobs is ridiculous. We are required to utilise both left and right brain simultaneously, be almost schizophrenic in our ability to multitask, be able to calm our clients (and even our suppliers sometimes) and then turn around and crack the whip and get things done.
We need to have an eye for detail, yet be able to look at the whole picture, have endless patience, always smile and be able to function without the help of pharmaceuticals (bring back the 80’s).
So what makes a great event manager? Without doubt the most important aspect is communication. You need to be able to communicate well with an understanding of the purpose for that communication, and an understanding of the outcome desired for ALL parties. I only half seriously say, have kids to understand that.
I spend most of my time in pre, during and post production communicating with all parties and it is without doubt the largest and most important part of my job.
You need the ability to be creative and logistical at the same time. I am really lucky to be able to see a completed space in my head and also read a balance sheet and do a P&L. The ability to create within a budget and understand that budget and its effect on the event as a whole is a great advantage.
Many event agencies have designers who are given a budget for design and off they go. Being able to cost and quote an event while seeing the finished product in your head is a great help.
We have all “stolen from Peter to pay Paul” in order to make our budget work for the client and the event and if we can do this without damaging the design or style of the event, you are winning.
Multitasking, is something men seem to be less capable of than women. I know that sometimes I struggle and watch my female counterparts do this so effortlessly. The trick is to be able to do this while under pressure as well.
In fact, a few weeks ago I was one hour out from doors opening with guests in pre-dinner. My MC was running about three hours late due to planes, weather and bad roads, the DJ had arrived with no turn table or mixer (Really? Who even does that?), performers were arriving and wanted to know really important things like when was dinner going to be served to them, and there were the usual last minute script and award details changes that needed to be made to script and vision.
I was in the middle of this and at one point realised I had not taken a breath in about 20 minutes and was probably starting to turn purple. I stopped, burst into laughter at the craziness of it all, breathed and started again.
The changes were made, the DJ was sent to speak to in-house AV about decks, the MC arrived and asked for a hard copy script printed in 18 points (of course) and so the night progressed and of course everything worked out and was a success, cause that’s what we do.
The last important skill is the ability to juggle this all and still appear calm on the outside. As a great events person once said to me: “never run” it’s the first sign something is wrong. The mantra (Dory like) is “Just keep walking, just keep walking”.
Here is a segment from a great article entitled “I am an event coordinator” and sums up the craziness of what we do:
Naturally, it will be no problem to turn your plenary session for 600-classroom style into a hollow square for 130 with rear-screen projection, simultaneous Japanese translation and satellite hook-up during your 15-minute coffee break. Unfortunately, however, due to space constraints, we will have to suspend your lunch buffet from the ceiling above your plenary session.
We have located the boxes that you sent last month, under your mother’s maiden name to the hotel down the street, and again, apologize for not having found them sooner.
In answer to all your questions, it is of course understood that I am telepathically aware of all your speakers’ requirements and will set up an overhead, LCD panel, dual slide projectors, two screens, laser pointer, podium microphones, two tabletop microphones, podium knock-out switch, timer, and blue M&Ms in each room, at no charge, just in case. Additionally, it goes without saying that an AV tech, engineer, baby-sitter, and I will be underneath your head table for the duration of your event in case you need anything else.
Sometimes I think we must be crazy to keep doing it, but then the lights dim and the audience sighs in anticipation, the show starts and there are a group of people all working together to create a show they only started building that morning and I know exactly why we do what we do!