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Exploring the Events Industry: Event Recruitment with Robert Kenward

For this week’s blog I spoke to Robert Kenward, Chief Talent Officer and founder of You Search and Select, an independent recruitment consultancy for live event agencies. There are a lot of us out there at the moment in the events industry who are worried about what the job market is going to look like over the next year or so. Are we going to be made redundant, do we need to learn skills in other areas to stay relevant, should we stop searching for our dream job and just sit tight. Robert shares his view on how he sees the event industry job market moving forward and what he is doing to help right now!




Who is Robert and how did he end up as an event industry recruiter?

Robert started out his career as a high street recruiter in Bristol for 9 years before his boss moved to London. That same boss then called and invited him to come to work for them at MCM Create Group as Commercial Director, selling him the ‘London dream’.

He then spent 7 years working in London at Sledge as Commercial Director for a short time before moving to Banks Sadler as their Global Development Director leading a team of 22 people in 7 cities across 5 countries. Robert jokes that this is the time he fell out of love with the industry as he wasn’t connected to events the same way you are when you work directly organising them. In his own words, he was called an inspirational leader and a terrible manager.

This led him back into recruitment, realising the recruitment model for live events is outdated, he created You Search and Select and his Fitability programme. Fitability matches people with people as well as their skills and experience. Most companies when recruiting make a list of the skills they need for someone to do the job role, not taking into account 40% of what made the previous person good at their job was them, their personality, and the brand identity. Robert now works exclusively on senior roles and has taken him a long time to get to where he is now, but he did it by knowing what his strengths were and playing to them. You Search and Select celebrated its 4th Birthday recently however not the party he hoped for due to coronavirus, I’m sure many of you with birthdays right now can identify with this!

Pretending this is February 2020 and there is no coronavirus or lockdown, what does your day to day life look like?

I love being an independent, I don’t need or have the desire to scale the business as I want to focus on my clients and candidates, rather than the drama of the bottom line and operational costs/overheads. I created this business as I love the sector and knew that with my recruitment/events background I could make a real difference, whilst being able to spend a much time with my 8-month-old, my 5 year old and my wife as I can

Mondays I don’t work in the day, I take my little boy out and then will work in the evenings when clients are usually available as they will be at work during the day. Twice a week maybe Tuesday and Thursday I will be in London for work (You Search and Select is based in Brighton). Fridays I log in later in the day working around the school run but on Saturdays I will catch up with clients and do interviews that they couldn’t do during the week. It’s a flexible business and that’s why I do it, first and for most it’s about spending time with my family. I will also spend 4-6 hours a week looking for new business and a few hours marketing and making sure my brand name stays out there and relevant. Engaging on social media particularly Linkedin where my clients will be.

How has Coronavirus changed your business?

Quite simply, I am not recruiting right now. no one wants to speak to a recruiter at the best of times, they come to us when they need us. Right now, the industry is at a standstill, any roles I do take on this year though I will be offering not to invoice until next year to help agencies with their cashflow. I can keep my business going just about so it’s about keeping going and making sure when this is all over my brand and business are still there and can bounce back. 2020 is a wash out for events, sadly there will be many redundancies and the market will shrink but it will pick back up towards the end of the year and be somewhat of a recruitment explosion as companies re-fill the positions they had to let go.

I have been spending my time speaking to agency owners and event professionals to keep in contact and offer support. I have opened my diary up for anyone no matter what role you are in to have a session with me about CV’s, interviews, anything that could help them here. As well as being on a few webinars on similar topics (Robert did a webinar with ILEA recently on creating a stand out CV and has another with MIA today at 10:30am (7th May). I have focused on what I can do rather than what has been taken away, some days you do wake up though and don’t want to do it. I just think have skills that can help, and I really believe in the community we have.

Where do you think the event industry will change short and long term?

I believe transient travel will change, people won’t fly 2 hours for a meeting anymore as its been proved you ca do this on zoom, although it’s not the same as meeting clients face to face.

In terms of B2B I think the sector will shrink, it was already at saturation anyway. Instead of internal comms they just spoke to people at an event but during this time they will realise not everything needs to be in event format. Also, people will be reserved about attending events, you may not want to travel to another city to be in a room of 50 people you do not know for a day for quite a while. The number of B2B events will reduce but the ones that stay will be bigger, more creative and bigger budgets as its quality over quantity.

For B2C, experiential events will grow. Marketing budgets are still there, and companies will be wanting to get their products back into people’s hands and for them to start buying again.

Online events won’t replace live, but online will need to up its game. Stemming from that there will be new job titles created for example head of virtual events in the same way 5 years ago you never really heard of a social media manager. There will be many specialist roles to come out of this. University degrees in events will need to make sure they are teaching students about online events as part of their courses or they risk being outdated before they have even entered the job market. I can also see a lot more hybrid roles for the foreseeable as companies can’t afford the overheads for 2 people while there isn’t enough business or cashflow e.g. Events and Marketing manager.

Robert shared more thoughts in his blog

Thanks, so much for sharing the recruitment side of events with me Robert! Be sure to follow Robert on Linkedin, Twitter and now Instagram.

Next week we will be speaking to Megan Anstee on working as a freelance event manager and how to take the leap from full time employment.

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