Last night I joined a great discussion on clubhouse led by Nyomi Rose @whatnyomidoes an events student who has built an amazing profile to make her own and fellow students voices heard, and Naomi Hollas who runs @eventgrads a great community for students and graduates to learn and share their journeys. The discussion was around the next generation and why companies that are not considering them are setting themselves up to fail. One important question was raised around the education vs experience debate and how the next generation of event professionals can gain experience in the current state of the industry.
So you’re a student looking for event experience right now or wondering how to get experience to enter the industry, but there are no live events happening, companies have had to let staff go more than they have been hiring & its hard enough for seasoned professionals to get a new job let alone someone just starting out. I won’t lie it is tough right now to work in events, it's tough for the people working, it's tough for the people that have lost jobs and it's tough for those starting out. BUT it does not mean you should give up on your dream of working in an area you are passionate about. Besides your career will never be linear and a lot of us will do a lot of different jobs over our lifetimes. My degree was in Law, and my first job was a sales administrator (it was peak unemployment after the recession you took what you could get, so I know the struggle), but I volunteered to help organise every incentive & staff party I could before going back to uni to do a MSc in Event Management and getting into the industry full time.
State of the industry
A lot of corporate companies (or at least the event planners I have spoken too) are not planning on putting on events until at least Q3/Q4 21/22. When you think about it they’re saying adults in the UK over 18 will be offered the vaccine by September it takes three weeks for the first vaccine to be 50% effective then they are currently doing the second dose three months later which should be December IF all goes to plan. Covid is still going to be around this year & social distancing rules in some capacity are likely to remain in place for safety and prevention until the government can be sure the vaccine program has helped suppressed the virus. Large brands, especially those with strong compliance policies are not going to want to be guinea pigs and bring large groups together with the risk that if someone caught covid at their event the hit to their reputation could be huge. If corporate’s are not planning large events, they are not hiring agencies to help them produce or booking venues or suppliers, the whole chain will take a while to get back on its feet.
Digital events will remain for the foreseeable and even when live resumes there is going to be a place for them however there will be a decline. We will see hybrid lasting longer which will be great for accessibility both in terms of disability and social economic disadvantages to people that cannot afford or travel to attend global conferences.
So what can you do to gain experience?
If you are serious about getting event experience and want to stand out, you need to create it yourself. Pull together a group of students, create an event society if you don’t have one or join one. And start putting on virtual events for each other. Create a proposal with your main aims of the event, what you want to get out of it, the topic, your target audience. Use zoom or other platforms if you have the access to them, test and learn how to troubleshoot tech issues like screen share and microphones (these are the most common and most simple to fix issues). Research professionals in the industry or other students that you could ask to speak, have them do individual sessions or together as a panel discussion. Produce a running order for the event timed to the minute for practice. Produce marketing documents on the speakers and the sessions.
These are all the skills we use when creating digital events and the beauty of digital is you can do them all yourself, from home. Take screenshots of the event or recordings as long as ok’d by the speaker. Then once you have run your event, get feedback from the attendees, maybe try an NPS score and make sure you track numbers like how many registered, how many attended and how many would come again. This is all important to collect for post event reporting on ROI.
Take all of this and create a portfolio online, you can use websites like Wix or Wordpress with very simple layouts and showcase your work. Because this is digital event experience, those of us already in the industry had to teach ourselves by doing it in the exact same way this year. You can do it too, and show off initiative that you are not just waiting for an opportunity to come your way, but you are willing to go out there and create it yourself.
If anyone wants a hand on what to include or where to start, feel free to email me or connect with me on social media. I am more than happy to help! firstname.lastname@example.org / @eventswithrachael