Our event manager Charlotte Best kindly took time out of her busy schedule to share her experience and expertise in event management as well as some fascinating facts including her time as a professional athlete for Team GB!
Hi Charlotte. To start with, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
Ok Usman (we both laugh) My name is Charlotte Best and I’ve been based in the QEII now for over 2 months. But a little bit about myself beforehand. I went to university up in Loughborough as a student back in 2004. I studied sports science back then because I was an athlete doing 800 metres and used to run around the world competing for Great Britain, which was great fun. Then decided in 2012 it’s time for me to start a career and I found myself getting a job after doing an events management degree, a second one after my sports science. I ended up working for a brand agency as an Event Executive and worked my way up to be the Awards Manager where I managed 8 different award campaigns from sports to business as well as overseeing 40 events that the events team did aswell. Now I’m based in London which is great fun and back in my hometown in Reigate. Loving life and really enjoying myself at the QEII.
That’s great to hear. So how did you get into events management?
It probably stemmed from my life as being an athlete as I used to go to these massive events around the world and after the event, when I’m a bit more relaxed and not nervous from racing, I used to always see the events team having a really good laugh. So I did a bit of work experience on the Great North Run and fast track events like the Diamond Leagues all around the country and I got a taste for it. So I decided to do an events management degree in Loughborough and that’s how it all really started.
What was the first event you helped to organise?
The one I was being paid would probably be the best one to do was the Leicester Mercury Sports Awards. It’s an annual event running for over 25 years and my old company have been managing it for the past 10 years. I was pretty much thrown in the deep end as the event was on my first week of work and I had no idea what I was doing. First thing I was told to always have my clipboard with me and the time plan, which I didn’t have. But it was a brilliant because we had all of the Leicester celebrities including players from Leicester City Football Club as well as the rugby players who I had no idea who they were. It normally starts as a drink reception, 3 course sit down dinner with some entertainment and then the awards ceremony. So that’s the first thing I started and it rolled on from there.
Tell us about the toughest event you have organised
Erm I’m sure there will be many to come at the QEII as I’ve only been here for 2 months and I’ve not been given a full week event yet but if you ask me this question in few months’ down the line, it’ll might be different. But at the moment it would be the Leicester Mercury Business Awards which had 800 people in attendance and it was a sit down dinner. But what I used to do was run it from conception right through to completion. So I would get the sponsorship packages in place and working with the newspaper to do a 6-month PR campaign, both in paper and online, as well as sorting out the website. It was everything right through the start from judging all the way through to organising 500 applications and eventually putting on an event for 800 people in a brand new venue located in the middle of nowhere. There was a lot of challenges along the way especially in terms of table plans as they were not honest with us about the number of the people we could get in the room. So they said we could fit in 1000 and in the end there was over 800 people inside but we were extremely behind and still selling tickets until the day before the event. So that was probably one of the hardest event as lots of things went wrong including the AC not being turned on with people sweating and the catering team were running behind. But to the clients and delegates sitting down, they were none the wiser which means we did our job well. I had to manage a team of 25 staff and make sure everyone was on top of it so that was difficult but we got through it.
What’s the most memorable event you’ve managed?
I had an event in London before I started working for the QEII and it was a charity ball at the Dorchester. It was full of celebrities and we had so much fun. You sort of forgot that you were working at times as you were around celebs and then just chilled out at the end. But it was tough as we had to take everything from the Midlands all the way down to London and then get out at the end of it with 500 drunk people walking around us. But it was certainly the most memorable one because it was so much fun and makes all the hard work pay off at the end of it.
What challenges do you most frequently face and how do you overcome them?
Clients getting stuff to me really really late is one of the main things. But it’s weird for me because I used to be a client and now I’m a supplier so I’ve swapped roles and I know what I used to be like (we both laugh). So I can relate to them as I know they’re not just doing this one event and may be doing a lot more events. The main thing the client will probably be facing is getting things signed off by their director or manager, so that’s probably why they’re late which doesn’t help me at all. Also within this building, it’s become apparent quite quickly that you don’t just concentrate on your event and be aware of other events in the building in terms of loading in and loading out especially as there is only one lift available so you have to be very mindful of that and not to stress the client out. The Clients are always right obviously but we have to put down the rules and see what they say.
What does it take to be a good event manager?
A number of things I believe. Organisation is key and being very approachable with the client, making sure they’re on your side from the beginning as you don’t want to start off on a bad foot. Keeping time management is extremely key especially if you’re juggling a number of events at the same time as you could go through the week managing 3 events. So it’s trying to make sure all of the schedules are up to date. Also making sure everyone is informed as it’s not always about you, it’s about the catering, the porters, the cleaners, the maintenance, AV and all the way down to the business centre. So multitasking, being organised, time management and being approachable are key to being a good event manager.
If you could do anything else, what would be your dream job?
You know what, I just love events, I don’t know! Obviously if you had asked me about 5/6 years ago I would say being a world class athlete which I was doing for quite a while but I got extremely bored and took on three jobs which isn’t the case anymore. But a dream job would be organising the MTV Music Awards or live events around the world.
What do you think of Team GB’s chances at next year’s Olympics?
Obviously the home nation will get the buzz and that builds them through just like the amount of medals we won in 2012 was phenomenal. But that was all across the board because the rowing did really well as well as the boxing, gymnastics and everything like that. It all depends on how the funding has gone in the last four years because I know there have been some cuts. We picked up some random medals everywhere. But in terms of athletics, I feel we’re going from strength to strength as we’ve got a lot of junior sprinters who are coming though and are phenomenal. Some of the athletes have come from abroad and are now representing Team GB so we’ll see.
Thank you for your time Charlotte.