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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What it means to be an event-management professional

DIVYA JAISING

Commits alumna DIVYA JAISING (Class of 2008) worked with leading event-management company George P. Johnson (GPJ) in Bangalore for two-and-a-half years before moving to the Brigade Group. Here she provides insights into the challenges of being an event-management professional. She also tells us what event management has taught her and continues to teach her:

noun

1. a. something that takes place; an occurrence.
    b. A significant occurrence or happening.
    c. A social gathering or activity.
2. The final result; the outcome.
3. Sports; A contest or an item in a sports programme.

All of us, keeping this definition in mind, have at some point in our lives managed an “event”. A cousin’s birthday party, a friend’s bachelorette or bachelor party, a college festival, a close relative’s wedding, etc., etc. The only difference between managing one of these events and being an event management professional, really, is that you get paid if you are the latter. :-)

So if each of us has done it before, it can’t be rocket science, right? Not that it isn’t stressful, hectic, extremely frustrating at times (the want-to-tear-your-hair-out kind), but essentially it is managing a lot of elements to put together an event, keep the client stress-free, and get paid to do just that.

THE ENTIRE GPJ TEAM AT DIVYA JAISING'S FIRST EVENT FOR IBM AT AAMBY VALLEY.
  
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL EVENT AGENCY CONSIST OF?
From my experience of working with one of the more “corporatised” event agencies, a typical event agency has three essential teams that help to put an event together from start to finish.
  • Client Servicing/Business Development
  • Creative Department
  • Production/Operations
Client Servicing/Business Development: The client-servicing department essentially plays the role of mediator between the client, the creative department, and the production/operations team. They usually bring in the briefs, either from existing clients or after pitching to new clients, and drive the entire event during the planning stage, getting necessary approvals from the client, and passing on changes wherever required

Note: Client servicing also serves as the punching bag for all departments AND the clients. :-)

Creative Department: This team includes graphic designers, copywriters, 3D artists, and the Creative Head. They usually ideate, put together themes for events, and work on the actual creative elements (things like backdrops, invitations, stage design, branding elements, e-mailers, etc.)

Note: The Creative department is usually cribbing about their creative work never being appreciated. :-)

Production/Operations Team:  Once the plans are finalised and creatives are set, the Production/Operations team takes over and executes the event. Which means getting the required vendors, negotiating rates, spending hours on set at the site, and ensuring everything is executed according to plan

Note: These guys are usually the owls of the office, working away at night, and are more often than not the tech geeks using terms only they can understand.

Some agencies are not as streamlined and usually the same people may perform more than one of the above functions.

ANOTHER IBM OFFSITE EVENT, THIS ONE IN GOA WITH A CARNIVAL THEME.
 
WHAT EVENT MANAGEMENT HAS TAUGHT ME
AND CONTINUES TO TEACH ME

1. PLANNING IS KEY: I have learnt that the first step to organising a successful event is good planning. Planning ensures you have covered all grounds. But and always, and I mean ALWAYS, have back-up plans (things don’t always go the way you want them to on events). Plan A, Plan B, and sometimes a Plan C and D will ensure that whatever surprises that might be sprung at the last minute are taken care of. The most essential part of planning, of course, is making those checklists. I’m now so used to making checklists that even in my personal life when I’m planning a trip or a get-together, the first thing I do is put down a checklist. :-)

2. MULTITASKING IS A MUST: When you have a list of a hundred things to do (literally) you have no choice but to multitask. Checking your e-mail while talking on the phone and giving directions, changing channels on television, and eating dinner all at the same time has now become a piece of cake (I’m perfecting the art really).

3. CRISIS MANAGEMENT SKILLS COME IN HANDY: One of the most valuable things I have learnt from event management is how to handle a crisis. Some things are just not in your control and in event management there is no second chance, just like in theatre. When plans A, B, C, or D don’t work and if something goes wrong, a solution needs to be found, however last-minute it is. That’s why it is so important to learn how to handle a crisis, why it is so crucial to understand the situation and look for solutions instead of panicking, which could lead to a nightmarish situation. In my opinion, in most cases the make or break of an event depends largely on the crisis management skills of the event manager.

4. PEOPLE MANAGEMENT SKILLS ARE ALSO NECESSARY: Sometimes in this field, I’m sure like in many other fields, you realise that more than managing the event (which might actually be the easy part), managing the people involved is really the tricky part. Different temperaments, many decision makers, different ideas, different styles of working — sometimes more energy is spent just trying to get the balance right and not rubbing anyone the wrong way. After a bit of practice, though, you get the hang of it :-) (I still have a long way to go on this front). It sure helps in the non-professional field as well.

5. ATTENTION TO DETAIL IS A BIG HELP: Before I got into events, I thought I had an eye for detail. It was only after being thrown into the big bad world of events that I realised just how much I still had to learn. It really is the smallest things sometimes that make the biggest difference. For example, a minute-by-minute flow of the event will actually show you the loopholes that a normal agenda for the event might not. 

Having worked with George P. Johnson, one of the more corporatised agencies, on events for one of the biggest brands in the world, IBM, for close to two-and-a-half years was one of the best learning experiences of my life. It continues to help me work better in my current job with the Brigade Group where I am working on a project that requires me to not only handle the communication, marketing, and events, but also assist in overall project management of India's first experiential music museum coming up in Bangalore. Incidentally the Brigade Group is celebrating its 25th year and I have been given charge of handling the overall celebrations which started in October and will continue till the end of this month.

Being an event management professional is definitely a challenge; it’s not for the faint-hearted. Working long hours, sometimes for days without sleep, can get quite stressful. But the satisfaction of having completed a successful event is a different high altogether. One thing’s for sure: you work on something different every day, as no two events are the same. It’s one hell of a roller-coaster ride, which you just have to enjoy.

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