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If I knew then… Advice I would pass on to my 2006 self as a new event manager

Kelley Walker has taken on a new role as a TTA Project Director after 17 years in the industry. Along the way, she's done a whole lot of learning, listening, planning, talking and observing. Taking a few moments to reflect on what she has gathered along the way, Kelley turns her attention to "what I would share with my younger self back in 2006…?"

Getting into detail

I'm not sure there is ever such a thing as too much detail! If it’s in my head, I need to get it out there and share it. It’s all relevant and documenting my thoughts, observations and interactions saves time in the long run. As event managers, we all care about the detail – the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ – and most of us love a process, too. I give a lot of thought to how quickly and simply my team can access all the planning details to manage their projects. I have used various tools and trackers to meet the happy balance of simplicity and copious amounts of detail over the years! Planners, trackers, contact reports, running orders and show flows are all essential for planning and at TTA, we have developed our bespoke processes based on many years’ experience. Personally, I will always love a reliable worksheet as an obvious go-to planning document. 

Never disregard a niggle

If it pops up, deal with it. Ask that question, talk it through, jot it down in planning, refer it to your colleagues and your client if you need to. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and check these things! I’ve learned that assumption is the mother of all hiccups. If you don’t deal with that niggle, it’s bound to want a more in-depth chat with your brain at some ridiculous hour further down the line. Get it out of your head early on and sleep better!

The Power of Live…

…is amazing! We’re all here to play a part in the evolution of a full-service project and to see it experienced live. Most of us love working with people and bringing them together in a live environment is so rewarding. I’m grateful to work alongside amazing production management, design and content creatives who partner with the project management team to develop visually stunning, engaging, people-focused event programmes for our clients.

Unless it’s a pure party (and I don’t plan too many of them), my experience is that for audiences, content is king. During the pandemic, I worked very closely with some super-special colleagues to transition pre-planned, in-person events to virtual, and support our clients to reach their audiences in the most efficient, engaging way. With a lot of hard work, research, demos and testing, we were able to advise and recommend alternative solutions for our clients and introduce new processes for our colleagues.

In my opinion, in-person events will always encourage better networking, but a virtual experience can be engaging when the circumstances and environment are optimal. Virtual events need to be easily accessible and the content needs to drive everything, including making sure that on-demand content is available for audience convenience.  Hybrid can be the ideal scenario, where in-person combines with a supported mobile app and web-based hub for virtual participants – that’s catering for all!

Teamwork is dreamwork

I value my colleagues, I appreciate their honest feedback and I love to collaborate with and learn from them to grow our strengths and support each other’s development, confidence and sometimes, sanity

It’s important for a project planning team to understand the expectations of them. Over the years, delegating has been a challenge for me at times, but being “delegated to” has not been an issue. In considering this dilemma, I have come to realise that perhaps I equated delegation with being a bit controlling, but I have learned it’s far from that.  It’s offering direction, support and defining roles and responsibilities – all the things that make us feel secure and valued in our roles. A key learning for me has been that ultimately, owning your role is empowering and can lead to great things.

Although it may feel like it sometimes, it’s really not possible to have seen and done it all. At TTA, we value teamwork strongly and harnessing the combined efforts and knowledge of your team is invaluable. Brief well, document that detail and share! The more you share, the more you can involve, develop and grow together to get the best outcomes and engagement. Never underestimate the power of talking it through. We love a huddle at TTA, and we make time every week to share thoughts and learnings around hot topics… and yes, sometimes you need a good moan too: it’s only human! We’re proud of what we do, and we genuinely want the best for our clients and for each other. 

There is always something to learn

Always! I say this after every event, and I love that. If there wasn’t anything to learn, there would be nowhere to go. It’s no bad thing to reflect and admit we could have done that better or ‘next time, I would suggest…’ because that means, next time, you will improve that one thing. If we focus on the learnings along with the successes for every project, we will be better placed to guide our clients and create those incredible event experiences that are a credit to us all. 

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