In March I co-hosted #EventPlannersTalk Twitter chat with Mary Baird-Wilcock, CSEP, founder and CEO of The Simplifiers, an award-winning full-service event planning firm, launched in 2003. Thought leaders in producing non-traditional large-scale events, The Simplifiers have launched The Apprentice Program, an online crowd-sourced training solution for events professionals globally to better train their interns, apprentices and new hires.
Recently selected as one of the “Top 25 Young Event Pros to Watch” globally by Special Events Magazine, Mary is a highly sought after event planner and mentor in the events industry. With over 12+ years experience designing and producing events, she is an award-winning thought leader in events education, having worked with hundreds of brides and clients such as Google, Facebook, Intel, Microsoft, and TEDx, who are looking for something different. She also serves as a Director-at-Large for the Board of Governors of the International Special Events Society, leading 5000+ members worldwide in 53 chapters of events professionals in global events education. She is only 1 of 400 worldwide (and 1 in 3 in the UK) who are CSEP certified as a Certified Special Events Professional…in short, she knows her stuff.
Thanks to all chat participants who also gave their input on this important topic @apprenticeprgm @Melgaffney14 @beckyjdempsey @meganherrity @CaycelEvents@RuthMcDonagh @laurenmarieldn @girlwthatlaugh.
What 3 things do you wish you knew at the beginning of your event career?
Volunteering in events helps you grow as a planner, gain more experience. For example, volunteer with International Live Events Association.
Use social media, don’t be afraid to network and listen when someone tells you you’re wrong!
Network more, join industry associations early and have a mentor.
Certifications are important.
Do a styled photoshoot with your vendors to seed your portfolio with images of the type of clients you want to attract.
Importance of social media, being confident and believing in yourself!
What can you and can you not do with an event intern?
Depends on the intern, nearly everything, though respecting they are working for nothing is important.
Take them to a pitch/sales call. Getting the client is the hardest part to teach in school.
Find ways to give them ownership over tasks and have something that they can create.
Involve them in your business, don’t give them just mundane tasks.
Don’t think interns know it all and treat them as such, appreciate we need to learn before we earn.
I learnt so much from my intern role and loved having responsibility however vital to have guidance to stay on track.
Interns are meant to be taken under your wing, teach them what you do from A-Z.
Make sure they are doing what they are there to learn about, not just observing from a distance, actually participating.
Less about can and can’t, more about working together for mutual benefits and understanding goals of each side.
Ensure they see the fun, rewarding part, along with the tough, day to day grind, so they get a real feel for it!
You can train interns to begin developing their full potential.
In week 2, always ask your interns: what are 3-5 goals you’d like to achieve during this internship?
Know your local intern laws before you hire someone, can you commit to training them? Are they going to be paid or unpaid?
The fact that the person has gone and found an intern role shows their determination to succeed.
Why is it important to have a set training curriculum for event interns?
Don’t use one, but try to work around what they want to achieve and what needs to be done, best for all!
You only have 1 chance to make a 1st impression. Onboarding ensures they know how your firm operates.
Your intern needs to be able to hold you accountable for their education. Manages expectations, goals, etc.
Unfortunately this doesn’t surprise me – too often interns are seen as free workers and not for contributions.
80% of what is taught about events is NOT at the event. It’s in the pre-production phase + client relations.
Ensures agreed goals are achieved, provides something to measure against, every #eventprof loves a plan!
Ensures all interns have the same experience.
Training your team on the fly wastes your time as a mentor and makes you come off as disorganised when you aren’t.
With a set training curriculum like The Apprentice Program you get your team up to speed faster on YOUR best practices.
You need to document the process so when they leave you know they achieved learning objectives and progress.
Because the events industry is so hands-on, you want to make sure an intern is cultivating the right skills.
Interns learn what their strengths are, I learned early I prefer BOH to FOH bc I can handle the stress.
What are your best tips for working with and empowering your Millennial staff?
3 things…They need 1-on-1 mentoring, time with you weekly to learn from you, ask questions, hear horror stories.
Training, respect and clear goal setting.
Communicate, don’t see Millennials as a confusing concept just be as you would with anyone else.
Interns need hands-on projects where they can make mistakes and fix them on their own.
And in the long scheme of things this time invested could be very beneficial… Cost of employing/training reduced!
Get to know the staff, talk to them, understand their needs and wants and work with them.
Have chats at the start to understand goals and be prepared to put in the time to advise and support all the way through.
I think the thing with millennials is they want to be seen as individuals. Get to know each person and what empowers them.
Seeing everyone as an individual, with unique needs, should apply to all!!
Explain WHY you are doing it and have a CSR element.
They need a way to get feedback from you, both praise and constructive criticism. This builds mutual trust and respect.
What makes a great event mentor?
Patience and a good sense of humor.
Someone interested, experienced and willing to share it, also able to see strengths, weaknesses etc.
Someone who is a GREAT listener and an open book.
A great communicator and someone who strikes a good balance between leader and manager.
Providing methodical training, being wise and having plenty of patience.
Someone who cares about your personal development, too.
Someone who explains the WHY behind tasks assigned, rather than barking orders.
Someone who can achieve the balance between advise/support, but also trust to let them have a go themselves.
Someone who knows the industry and involved and is resourceful so can make introductions.
Where can event companies find quality interns?
Connect with your local association ILEA, SEPA, MPI, it’s likely they have a board member just for students.
Universities and LinkedIn.
*Sidenote* – don’t assume all event students are Millennials. Some might be mums making a mid-career switch.
With luck. Very hard to find good ones. Students really don’t understand the industry until they are in.
Develop friendships with professors or advisors.
Universities, social media, associations, networking events.
What should they look for in their CV? Your best interviewing tips?
Look for their recent coursework, are there classes/modules they’ve taken that apply to your position?
What do they list as their hobbies, have they volunteered recently? Ask about this to get to know their personality.
Volunteering at variety of different events, in different roles. Show diversity and willingness to work!
Don’t worry about CV ‘gaps’ Show confidence in what you can do and outline a way to fill said gaps with employers help.
I always ask when interviewing people, €œwhat’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever done in your life?
Interesting projects, awards won, volunteering, blog, study period abroad.
Look for points which indicate a strong interest in events. Ask questions which are out of the ordinary.
As a company we look for passion, someone who genuinely wants to work in the industry and has a base understanding.
What last piece of advice would you have to offer to #eventprofs today?
Get involved in your ILEA local chapter, volunteer and find a mentor for yourself to continue growing!
Volunteer, network, follow up and do it all again. Get yourself known… And make sure you enjoy it!
Comfortable shoes… Networking, learn how to do it well and invest the time. It’ll pay off!
Get an international work experience, get out of your comfort zone, network online and offline and have a blog.
Collaborate, don’t dictate and remember how it was when we first started in the industry! Let interns make their mark.
Photo by Rich Will Nixon