Event Management: a Guide for Beginners

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Above: Deyone having a great time at work

Flourish Australia, like any large organization, organizes many events, but we have an added dimension to them. The events catered-to by our Figtree Conference Centre, provide valuable work experience to people living with mental health who are its employees. You may have read in a previous issue of Panorama about John Sebessy, once an employee of Figtree’s predecessor Platform Ten, who later went onto management positions in hospitality.

Pride in your work

We asked Sue O’Rourke, the manager of Figtree Conference Centre whether there was any event of which she was particularly proud.

“This may sound twee,” says Sue, “but I’m proud of every event we host at Figtree. Because we apply the same expectations of uncompromising quality and service to every event held here. All Figtree employees are reminded that our first priority is to work toward the efficient, seamless provision of customer service. We also try and communicate the message that we are a social enterprise and that when people hold meetings or events at Figtree they are helping to change people’s lives.”

Before he came to Flourish Australia as manager of Peer Work, Peter Farrugia worked with Blacktown Council in organizing events. When we interviewed him about his work, he glowed with pride as he recalled a mediaeval themed event he organized for the council, complete with knights in shining armour, damsels in distress and period costume and music. It all came together when he met some people form the Society for Creative Anachronism… but that’s another story. Peter’s most vivid recollection of the event was and still is the satisfaction of seeing the looks on the children’s faces!

Trade Secrets

Kim Jones says that among the many events she has organized over the years, the one that shines would have to be one for 300 people, a staff, Community, Carer and Consumer Event. ‘Everyone had a great time, it ran smoothly and the end result was very successful.’ But with so much that can go wrong in an event, how do you make sure you get to ‘successful?’

“Planning and preparation,” says Sue O’Rourke. “And then more planning and preparation! And having back-ups and contingencies in place, in case of something unforeseen. Being really attentive and accessible in case someone needs something, but not being in the way. Their event is about them, not us! We are just there with the infrastructure, service and supports to make sure that an event goes smoothly. I also think that food at an event really makes a difference. Our menu reflects our attitude to our customers. It is modern, fresh, good quality and mostly prepared here in our kitchen by our employees (and so made with love!!). To this end, I try to keep up-to-date with food trends. Ultimately you want the people who book or attend events here to feel really valued and special. They are our customers and we want them to return.”

There’s a lot of value in what Sue says not just by way of advice for working in hospitality, but in everyday housekeeping and entertaining our friends, family and visitors in our homes.

It is important to promote the event and to promote it in good time, says Kim, to make sure that people are actually able to attend it! And working within budget is always essential. ‘Don’t overspend!’ says Kim, and ‘Ask lots of questions.’

Peter Farrugia agrees with the importance of planning to meet customer needs. “The secret to good event organisation is to plan well, and to plan to the needs of the audience. I work with the premise of “under-promise and over- deliver”. This seems to be a winning formula. I also keep in mind the simple joys of childhood. This seems to tickle the memories of adults and surprise youngsters. Other than that, hard work and dedication, as well as trying to account for any and every possibility, including inclement weather!”

How to get a foot in the door

Kim says it is important when organizing an event to have people who are willing and able to do the work required in the time required but not all the work requires a degree in Neuroscience. For many tasks the most important thing is attitude.

If you are looking for work in event organizing, Peter suggests you look at volunteering for an existing event. That way you can get your foot in the door. There are so many events nowadays because it is such a popular way of marketing in the modern organization. There is an organization called Volunteering Australia where you can get tips. Local Councils, like the one Peter used to work for are always looking for event volunteers.

School fetes need people to run them! The Royal Easter Show needs reliable people to help out with the massive amount of organizing that it requires each year. Another annual event is the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. The types of work are usually fairly routine, such as filling show bags, but sometimes there is a bit more of an art to it, such as traffic control or First Aid through the St Johns Ambulance.

‘With events, everyone loves the show but people are often not prepared to step up and do the work’ says Peter. ‘This can provide you with an entry point to employment if you ARE prepared to do that. In volunteering, motivation really can make up for a lack of Experience!’

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(From Left) Linda, Sue, Sandra and Deyone, a few of our valued Figtree Conference Centre staff

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