As a Project Executive at Ashfield Meetings & Events, it's my job to facilitate the attendance of healthcare professionals and clients at medical education events and congresses. I ensure all attendee arrangements are catered for, ultimately allowing them the headspace to enjoy and absorb the event.
This sounds straightforward (invite, book, confirm, repeat) but in the fast-paced, ever-changing event industry, the reality is that the role demands a resilient, persistent multi-tasker, capable of keeping the wheels turning whilst juggling tasks and solving problems along the way. As the saying goes ‘teamwork makes the dream work’ and working in the event industry I know this to be true. We build strong working relationships with our project teams, clients and suppliers alike, so we feel supported in achieving our common goal - to create successful, memorable events and deliver our clients’ messages with impact.
Communication Is Key
Being the first point of contact for delegates, I receive a high volume of emails. I start the day with a cup of tea and settle in to check through and prioritise delegate enquiries. It's easy to get sucked into your mailbox, so I always allocate periods of the day to ensure I am free to respond to attendees and action any consequential tasks. It's important to look forward and anticipate challenges as you never know when your crisis management skills will have to kick in. After event invitations are distributed, the next phase of delegate communication is to confirm their travel arrangements and distribute final confirmations, ensuring all attendees are kept informed and have all the information they need.
Various suppliers visit our office weekly, which helps us to create, build and strengthen relationships. It’s a win/win for all parties and there's nearly always cupcakes involved. One of the best pieces of advice I was given when I started this role was to make friends with the congress housing bureau or secretariat. Accommodation is in high demand during congresses such as ASCO, where the medical world descend on Chicago to attend presentations and hear new research from key opinion leaders. When a VIP attendee needs to extend their stay, having strong relationships with suppliers will hold you in good stead to be able to pull it out the bag.
I regularly check back in with the event Project Manager to ensure we're on track. In between our weekly catch-ups we'll have capacity checks to make sure we're supporting one another in the pre-event preparation. Preparing for client calls together keeps us focused and ensures we will deliver a concise message and tend to any queries the client might have for us (such as delegate number updates - who's coming and who's not - and other logistical updates).
Technology Is My Best Friend
I handle countless delegate requests and changes each day so being organised and keeping track of my work is imperative. I report all delegate costs directly into the event budget. In the pharmaceutical event industry, transparency is of utmost importance, so I'll keep my trackers and financial overviews up-to-date to ensure that we are able to instantly report on any element should a client require it. Delegate lists are intrinsic to conveying information to our suppliers so I ensure I keep these accurate to allow me to convey delegate needs to travel, accommodation and catering suppliers.
Once the event preparation is done and we’re all printed and packed, it's time to deliver. I love a team catch-up at the airport over breakfast whilst waiting to board a flight to your destination; it’s the calm before the storm. Working abroad presents its challenges and 14-hour days aren't uncommon on-site, but they offer a new perspective and require a 'seize the day' attitude. No two events are the same, and working in this fast-paced, ever-changing environment has allowed me to engage and build relationships with people globally, from all walks of life and experiences. Every day presents new and exciting challenges and I find it really rewarding to be a part of.
In my time with Ashfield I have found it to be a diverse, forward-thinking company that presents opportunities for any direction you might want to take in your event career. Outside of my day-to-day responsibilities I am also actively involved in the training programme, which has empowered me to take the lead in my own development. This week I have been learning about the range of services our creative and content teams deliver for our clients and have also been involved in horizon-scanning to try and predict what will be impacting our clients in the short-, medium- and long-term. Next week I'm attending a SPARK THINKING session that is emphasising the importance of play in the workplace. I can’t wait; I will be taking time out of my day to explore my inner creative self and play with air-drying clay! On top of all this, we also have a social committee that I am involved with and love delivering events and incentives for my colleagues whilst at the same time supporting Ashfield Cares – our internal charitable initiative.
I would encourage anyone considering a career in events to jump at the chance with both hands. If you like what you have read, can multitask, communicate confidently and clearly, and demonstrate sound organisational skills, there could be a place for you at Ashfield.