Confessions From a Venue Event Manager

Skift Take

In this new series we present real-life confessions from people working in the event industry. These uncensored, frank insights tell it “like it really is”. Some details have been changed to respect the anonymity of the confessor and ensure maximum honesty can be upheld.

I have always worked in the hospitality industry, although I started out working on the food and beverage side. Initially I worked in silver service to pay my way through college, before being offered a supervisor role at a high-end caterer. It was exciting constantly working at different venues and seeing some stunning creative visions come together. I love that wow factor moment when guests first come into the room and I really understand the importance of every little detail.

Fine food and drink is a huge part of events and provides a great bonding opportunity too. The creativity, perfection and timing that the chefs constantly achieved for large numbers is something I have a lot of admiration for. This grounding on the F&B side helped me to move into the venue side and I am now one of the managers at a special venue. My job title is event manager but I know that my role is very different to someone that works say for an agency or corporation.

Event Operations. Check

My role is basically executing the event from the venue perspective. I am the main point of contact for the event management team and ensure that their requirements are met, coordinating with the catering, AV and management team at the venue. I oversee all the venue operations on the day of the live event, from setup and checks, through to ensuring everything happens on time from the venue side. This might be for a conference, meeting, dinner, party or fashion show.

Christmas Goes On Forever

My shifts are varied and I can start early in a morning or finish super late. Generally I don’t mind this too much – although it can get tiresome when Christmas parties start in November and go on until late January! Obviously we try to divide shifts up between the team but party season is huge so we all need to do our bit and working nights is expected and part of the job spec.  

Why I Love My Job

I love my job because it is so hands on and active. I rarely sit down during a shift. The thought of spending all day at a computer doesn’t appeal to me at all. Instead I get to meet lots of great planners and to ensure their event goes without a hitch. I think the main advantage of working on the venue side (instead of planning events from the agency side) is that I am working on a live event every single day. I don’t have the down time and the mountains of paperwork in between projects. Instead I just focus on gettings things done.

It’s All About the BEO

I have a meeting a week ahead for the sales managers to pass over the projects allocated to me and the AV team and catering manager . We talk through the main details on the BEO (Banquet Event Order). This document basically outlines all of the specific event logistics and instructions we need to successfully execute an event – the spaces booked, access times, set-up of the space, cloakroom, menu, dietary and AV requirements.

The sales team have sometimes worked with the planners for a long period of time and there is a lot of detail we need to see to, to ensure their specific requests are met. Other times the sales team have struggled to get much information from the planner so I just have the basics to work with and a lot to check on the morning of the event. I have a final print out on the day of the event in case there have been any changes made after the handover meeting.

I always arrive in plenty of time (generally an hour) ahead of when the event planner is due to arrive so that I can check that the housekeeping and facilities team have set everything up and prepared everything correctly, or request tweaks if the plan hasn’t been followed.

Busy, Busy

We are a busy venue, events happen every day and there is little down time. Even during the summer months we are often fully booked and some clients have dates booked in a few years in advance as the venue and date are synonymous with their event and they don’t want to lose it. I think the success and popularity of the venue is down to good location and transportation links, nice spaces, good food and, of course, ensuring everything goes perfectly for them on the day.

A Mixed Bag

We have plenty of regulars who come back to run events with us time and time again but lots of new faces using us too. It is often easy to spot who are the event pros that run events for a living and those that have had the planning of the event pushed on them (often secretaries, personal assistants or marketing), or are working as part of a voluntary committee. Everyone works hard though and care about the event they are putting on. Some people who don’t have much experience of events sometimes think that the venue does everything for them, right down to managing the event, speakers, attendees and registration. I am helpful but this is not the deal! Luckily the sales team generally iron out this expectation during the contracting process.

However experienced the client is though I make it my priority for me and the venue to give as much support as we can. When I run through everything before the event gets underway if there is anything that isn’t clear or if I think there is a better way to do things I will check with the client so we can be prepared for it and have time to do things in a different way.

The Event Manager’s Best Friend

I know every nook and cranny of the building, every item the venue owns and I pride myself in finding a solution of work around any request that the client makes. This might be storage space for something, a green room, a room for a breastfeeding mum who wants some privacy, a spare flip chart or finding cool furniture to be used on the stage. It is worth keeping me on side as some things should, in theory, be paid for, but if I can do it as a favor to help someone out I will (don’t tell management!).

The job certainly isn’t always glamorous. I have unblocked toilets and cleaned up vomit in the past – lovely! It is important that the venue and event organizer work closely in partnership as both need each other to create a polished event. Neither can work in isolation.

I always try to look after the organizing team by ensuring they have food available for when they are ready to eat too. I will often ask the catering team to hold something back for them, which is always appreciated.

Event Planners Can Be Infuriating

The biggest frustrations of my job is when we are not kept informed, or when we have a request without any warning at the last minute, which could have been pre-empted. For instance when the conference breaks 20 minutes earlier than scheduled it makes the venue look inefficient and we are just scrambling to get everything out. I always share my work mobile number so even a quick text from the event planner would be appreciated in these circumstances and perhaps a few minutes of “filling” would be good. I don’t like things like this that reflect badly on the venue.

Much more common is the tenancy period being overrun. This can cause massive issues if another client is coming in to build or run an event. Often the venue team have quite a lot of cleaning and re-setting to be done too so it makes our job a lot harder.

The Most Unprofessional Eventprof I Have Ever Come Across

One event planner that has used the venue a few times is a one-man-band who runs breakfast networking events and conferences. He always arrives late and looks quite dishevelled. Often he only arrives 15 minutes before his guests start to arrive but one time he was so late that his client, sponsors, VIPs, speakers and most of his attendees had arrived and were waiting for the event to start before he even rocked up. He never gives any apology or any explanation why he was held up. In fact sometimes he is downright rude. He is definitely the most unprofessional eventprof I have ever come across and I groan when I am allocated one of his bookings. Crazy!

Luckily this is just one inexplicable individual though, I have the utmost respect for the other professionals I work with, who all do an amazing job.

In Conclusion

I enjoy working on the venue side and getting to play an active part in so many different events. I think I have one of the best roles in the event industry and this suits me much better than a desk job ever could.

Want to share your own event planning confession? Email [email protected] and we will be in touch!