Welcome to another instalment in Exploring the Events industry, a series that interviews some amazing #eventprofs about their jobs and how they got there to help others navigating the world of events. We work in an amazing industry but from the outside it's often just thought of as party planners, the reality, there are so many roles in all different types of companies and without doubt there is a role to suit everybody. You just have to find it.
This week I spoke to an event industry superwomen, Lyndsey Taylor who set up her own company Park Lane Events 5 years ago. Lyndsey works with a host of corporate clients and venues and is one of the most supportive people I have the pleasure of knowing. I cannot wait to catch up with her on another FAM trip when the industry restarts. For now its been great to pick her brains and explore her journey to business owner, I'm not sure if there is a job Lyndsey hasn't done in a venue, she is a fountain of knowledge.
All about Lyndsey
Company: Park Lane Events.
How long have you worked in your current role? PLE celebrated 5 years in April during COVID-19.
How long have you been in the industry? I have been in the industry since I worked as a casual worker (now known as zero hours contracts) whilst studying Hospitality and Catering Institutional Management at college, so 25 years now.
What is your dream event to work on? My dream events are ones in historical, independent venues where you can bring their stories to life as part of your event.
How did you get into the event industry and What kind of roles have you had?
I’ve been involved with almost all roles in a hotel, having studied for 2 years at college with a training restaurant/kitchen/bar on site whilst working casual hours at my local hotel at the same time. I left home at 19 living in staff accommodation for a two year, hands on, trainee management scheme in a small hotel group in Oxfordshire. I worked in conferences, events, reception, housekeeping, bar, kitchen to a supervisory level, as well as duty management. My last part of that two years was working for two months in head office as I was cheeky enough to ask the group personnel officer what exactly does head office do? I worked in the sales office where I learnt about proactive sales, group sales, promotions, exhibitions, this was before face to face appointments, pre internet and I sat next to one of the best cold callers in the industry who would go through industry equivalent yellow pages call, after call, after call. The Sales Director of the company took me under her wing for those two months and wrote a job description for me as her Sales Assistant, the next two years included setting up the group on a new reservation system and supporting the training involved before supporting the conference office in a hotel opening where I did my first pre-opening. I left at 22 for my first London role as hotel sales coordinator supporting the corporate sales team in the largest London property at the time, I have been in proactive sales ever since until I set up Park Lane Events and added venue finding, consulting and now training.
What made you decide to start your own company & how did you first get set up?
Having worked so many hours for various hotels/venues/groups/people I wanted a better life balance with my family. I wanted to choose who I was working with, how I was working with them and seeing the difference I was making as a partnership with that client whether the client was a venue or a corporate buyer. I didn’t want to do just one thing, I wanted to do more networking and work under my own brand, I was finding people were coming to me anyway so why not take the jump? I actually started two businesses at the same time and thought, let’s see which one takes off and see what happens. We were hiring out our 1974 VW campervan Elvis which was also a great business model but Park Lane Events was much busier than I anticipated!
How did you secure your first clients?
My first client was a venue working on a commission only basis. Very risky! It was a car show room on Park Lane, London and they suggested my company name! I met them at a networking event and when they heard about my experience they asked if I would be interested to see if their venue might be of interest to the London corporate market. I knew someone else in another venue on Park Lane so I set up a showcase evening at both venues as they were walking distance from each other. The attendees were a mixture of approx. 12 corporates and agents so I could chat with them easily and ask their feedback during the evening, I followed up after and business started coming in. I will always be grateful to those two venues who put on the fam trip as it gave me something to talk about and share with my clients. I’ve always said that although fam trips are important, so is the pre- and post-interaction where you pick up new enquiries just by talking about your projects if it happens to be the right time for the reader. If people don’t know what you are doing, they don’t know they could be contacting you about it. After that night, I was successfully consulting with my 1st venue, I picked up my 1st venue finding client and my 1st fam trip was under my belt. The venues were so impressed with the quality of the clients I had bought they asked that night if I could do it again in 6 months time.
What do you think are the most important skills you need to work for yourself?
Be yourself, find your passion, be honest, be realistic, be passionate and obviously be structured and focussed, did I mention be passionate?!
What’s your favourite thing about working in events?
The people, the people, the people! Also, the flexibility and variety in the industry in general.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to start their own business?
Go for it! Do not worry about what ‘might’ not work or what people ‘might’ think. Keep looking forward and moving. You are wearing the shoes, go walk in them. Then run, then fly, it’s your journey no one else’s so don’t let others pull you back – let them get on with what they’re doing. Be secure in yourself and what you’re doing, believe in yourself, you’re worth it.
How have you managed during Covid19?
With difficulty! I have two girls who have had birthdays during lock down so they are now 13 and 10, they are fondly known as ‘Geek Girl’ and ‘Ferrell Child’. Geek Girl loves school so has cracked on, Ferrell Child - not so much so we have thrown the timetable out the window. Instead she has concentrated on her drums (she passed grade 2 in lock down) and did an on-line charity bake sale for the Cheetah Foundation and raised £242 with her friend. We’re having more fun concentrating on things she doesn’t normally do at school to avoid rows!
What are you doing to keep yourself going until the industry picks up? Do you have any projects you are still working on?
See above! Workwise, all events have moved of course so there is no commission coming in for 6 months at least on the venue finding part of the business. There are nearly 50 venue finding contracts in place from September this year to end of next year with further contracts in place until 2025 for one client. But who knows if and how these are all going to go ahead at the moment? So keeping busy with industry news as it’s evolving, both sharing and listening without getting overwhelmed. Consulting is still ongoing though reduced hours so with the loss of the venue finding income too it’s a massive loss as everyone is experiencing in this situation. So I am designing a ‘Let’s Get You Started’ course for proactive sale roles in the industry for those working in hotels/venues. I was made redundant twice in the recession, one of those times I was on mat leave so have had to restart proactive sales a few times when I have been at my lowest confidence levels. As I started Park Lane Events from nothing other than my industry relationships, I would like to support others who are going through or are about to go through similar situations. I don’t like the thought of others feeling the overwhelm, the anxiety, the stress, the worry, the uncertainty of returning to work whilst trying to put in the 110% that proactive sales requires, the energy, the positivity, the creativity, the focus, the structure, constantly looking forward when it’s changing daily. So I’ve built an 8+ chapter manual to provide a step by step approach rather than trying to do everything at once. ROI is always going to be the outcome for the venue so this course can help keep things moving in a structured way as well as having me at the end of the phone to help guide the individual forward. No two people or two venues are the same so it’s aimed at the individual and I can bespoke it further as we go along through our calls. We will go into some chapters in more depth and others not so much, for example there are chapters on social media, exhibitions, site visits, communicating to clients during this time. It’s about being confident in reaching out during such a sensitive time whilst they are still understanding what they are reaching out with! There are clients still booking and they do want to keep in touch, clients are looking at guidance from the venues as to how their event is now going to work so we start from the beginning with what we know and who we know. By the end of month 3 the proactive sales person will have their year ahead planned and be well underway if not before, they can go at their own pace so it depends on hours working and other responsibilities within the property which has to be taken on board.
What are you most looking forward to when the events industry is back to ’normal’?
Meeting people! I’ve always been known for my client catch up lunches, I positively encourage them! An hour or two in a relaxed environment catapults the outcome of months of appointments as you get to know each other personally as well as professionally. It eases you into a working partnership as you’ve learned how each other likes to work and how it fits in with our home lives. I take a genuine interest in what makes people tick, there’s always a common ground and once you’ve found that the rest flows. I’m therefore super grateful when a venue suggests lunch as I get to spend more time with that sales person, feel the ambience of the venue (is it busy/relaxed, is it suitable for the client I am thinking of using it for?), I can then speak first hand on my experience of the food, the service and the variety in the menu when speaking to clients. It gives me the opportunity to ask questions there and then and I know first-hand that a venue would rather sort any queries at the time when there are plenty of people to ask. It’s win - win for developing relationships and therefore winning business together. One of my suggestions of communicating with clients in my course is to order an afternoon tea or lunch to be sent to the client ahead of a zoom meeting until we can all meet again. Or to keep it small, send a mug or just coffee/biscuits to have that catch up coffee together virtually. That’s where bespoking the step by step approach with the venue to find out what can they supply as well as looking at where the clients are based makes the communication element so individual to that venue and sales person.
Do you think event industry & events themselves will change after the current coronavirus situation has passed?
Yes, this is different than anything anyone has experienced before in the industry and globally. Apart from the obvious hybrid events, who knows what creative solutions are being thought right now across the globe that we may all be using this time next year.
If you want to find out more about Lyndsey, and who wouldn't. You can connect with her through her website & social media.
www.parklaneevents.co.uk Instagram: @Parklaneevents Twitter: @LyndsTaylorPLE Facebook: @PLELondon