Insights

Behind the Curtain: My 48 Hours as an Event Professional

Spectacular setup, flawless execution, effortless engagement. Behind every great program is a team of skilled event professionals, working in the background to ensure that everything in the forefront runs smoothly.

It's dynamic, fast-paced work that's at the core of our business. And truthfully, work that tends to pique the interest of those within our offices more familiar with a desk than destination. So, when our UK Event Solutions team needed extra hands onsite, Marketing Executive, Alice Bruce, raised hers high. Eager to step out from behind her keyboard and gain a first-hand perspective of our corporate events.

Catch a glimpse behind the curtain and into the event planning career, as Alice shares her experience spending 48 hours as an event professional.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Corporate
Event Planning

Head shot of Alice Bruce, Marketing Executive for Global Agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Events are like roller coasters. First comes the planning; the queue in this analogy. Weeks and months are spent preparing, identifying locations, organising technology and onsite team roles, anticipating problems, creating solutions and designing the event look and feel.

Then comes set-up, and it’s time to buckle up for what sometimes is an unpredictable ride. Onsite staff arrive, the venue is dressed, last minute details added, and staff briefings conducted. Every job ticked off takes the team one step closer to live day; the beginning of the twists, turns, loops and corkscrews that event professionals take totally in their stride.

I arrived as a complete event newbie to support an onsite crew; fresh-faced and totally unaware of what the next days held in store. Having never been exposed to the world of live events before, it's fair to say that in the 48 hours that followed I learned a lot! Here's a little insight into the life of an event professional.

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

I do not think there has been a time in my career when the five p’s have ever been more evident. Before arrival I, a relatively minor cog in the event machine, was provided with four PDF files, a running order and crew overview documents. Everything I needed was included, hotel locations detailed, the menu for the next two days, venue maps, crisis management plan and risk assessment - all provided for my consumption before arrival.

Team of corporate event planners from BCD Meetings & Events working onsite at an event | BCD Meetings & Events

And then there was the content that didn’t involve me but that was crucial to the event: delegate accommodation that was organised across eight hotels, catering, hotel transfers, VIP exits and arrivals. The creative team produced over 30 films for the event presentations, an event app was designed, registration collateral ordered, banners made, bands were booked, and the production team created run orders, staging design and audio-visual plans.

I am certain that many other documents had to be produced and signed off before the launch of the event too. In total, I have been informed that the whole event took ten months to bring together - for just under two days of seamless delegate experience. If that's not proactive planning, I'm not sure what is.

Variety with a capital V

We’ve all heard jobs being described as having ‘no two days the same’, and for onsite event profs I can well believe it. In under 48 hours I worked on registration desks, as human signage, stocked drinks coolers, stuffed gift bags, ushered delegates, tidied up, helped organise VIP transfers, guarded luggage, prepped a dressing room rider and, most bizarrely, was tasked with finding the missing DJ. And that’s just one crew member. Across our team other jobs included stuffing popcorn, loading a theatre room, organising last minute “Bandeoke” sign ups, and loading transfer coaches; the whole experience was a world away from the days I usually spend behind a desk.

Audience viewing presentation at corporate event, designed by BCD Meetings & Events

While the jobs may, on face value, seem small and random, they were all essential to the running of the event and alleviating some of the workload from the main event organisers. I left on the final day feeling that I’d been truly productive and useful team player, which is really satisfying.

So how did you find it?

As with most things, there were parts that I loved and parts I enjoyed less. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were more of the former and less of the latter than I initially expected.  

The interaction with the event delegates was great. It was nice to have face-to-face contact with the end user and it was a privilege to be able to be a part of another organisation’s event. There are not many situations where you can be so involved in a company that is not your own and I found it very rewarding.

Event planner working onsite at corporate event, assisting attendee with registration | BCD Meetings & Events

The level of activity for me was another positive. In an average working day I struggle to cover 8,000 steps but onsite 18,000 was achieved with ease. While I did ache by the end of the day, it was great to be up and about walking, lifting, pushing and carrying - a pleasant change from being stationary at a desk.

The communal snack box, purchased by the permanent event team, and freely shared with the volunteers was a huge positive and 9pm pick me up. I have never enjoyed a custard cream more.

Finally, the aspect I loved the most was the genuine team feel that came from working with one another. Those in charge ran the event in such a calm, unflustered way it was almost relaxing, and even over the short time we were there the team developed a sense of camaraderie that you just cannot get over email.

What I enjoyed less were the slightly bizarre hours (of which I should point out mine were not the longest), the crew catering (effectively school dinners for adults) and the disruption to my usual day-to-day life and routine.

Biggest takeaways

One of the things that will really stick with me is the ability of the onsite team to simultaneously be proactive and reactive. Even with the months of planning for an event this size there is likely to be, and there was, a selection of last-minute changes, which the team were able to deftly incorporate into the programme. Being both forward thinking and flexible enough to follow the flow of last-minute decisions is a tricky skill pairing to master, two inverse traits that do not always go hand in hand, but that are, as I discovered, essential for an event professional.

Onsite corporate event setup, view of state and empty auditorium | BCD Meetings & Events

My second biggest takeaway is how awesome event apps are. While I have heard them talked about before, I had not realised how useful they can be and had significantly underrated them. Registration was a dream thanks to the built-in QR code scanning feature, each delegate had direct access to their personal timetable, updates reminders and notifications could be sent and actually worked, there was engagement with the evening entertainment and there was even a space where delegates could upload photos of the event that the company could then utilise.

Discover meeting and event technology trends to try now!

To conclude

The event I went to ran smoothly. Registration was quick and the sessions went well. However, I can see why the role of an event manager is so often in the top most stressful jobs. The combination of long hours, interesting food, shifting plans, being away from home and a routine is not for everyone. However, this event showed me that with a robust plan, a good team and flexible staff it is more than possible to produce one awesome event and one happy client.

Alice Bruce

Written by Alice Bruce

Marketing Executive, BCD Meetings & Events

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