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A day in the life: Special events manager

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It's hard to know what a job is really like until you actually do it. And with an increasing number of job titles and roles emerging in the sector, it's sometimes unclear what people do each day in their particular role. What skills do they use most often and how do they spend the bulk of their time? What are the biggest challenges in their work? And what would they do differently to prepare for such a position, knowing what they know now? CharityVillage®'s A Day in the Life series gives you a glimpse into the professional lives of people working in a range of jobs in the nonprofit sector.

This month we'd like to introduce you to.....

Name: Janice Achampong

Organization: The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation

Size: About 70 employees

Job title: Manager, Special Events

Education: University of Saskatchewan, Bachelor of Commerce, Marketing Major

Previous jobs and related activity: Special Events & Protocol with the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Special Events with the BC Lung Association.

Key responsibilities:

  • Manage a portfolio of events
  • Evaluate the strategic direction of events; investigate and pursue ways to add value
  • Evaluate budgets and look for ways to increase revenue and opportunities for cost savings
  • Develop critical paths, timelines and checklists for successful event execution
  • Develop recruitment, promotional and communication pieces
  • Management of event websites and social media
  • Provide stewardship to event participants and donors
  • Manage relationships with suppliers and event organizers
  • Manage a team of staff, students and volunteers providing leadership and guidance
  • Represent The Princess Margaret in the internal and external community, including the media

Datebook:

9:00 a.m. Check and reply to emails and voice messages. With all of my events I have three email accounts and two voice mail accounts to manage.
9:30 a.m. Read the latest articles regarding cancer research and breakthroughs. Browse through daily industry newsletters and best practice case studies of other event organizers.
10:00 a.m. Update timelines and assign roles for upcoming events.
11:00 a.m. Bi-weekly update with Special Events Coordinator.
12:00 p.m. Review proposals from suppliers for upcoming event.
12:30 p.m. Brainstorm meeting with team finalizing the concept for an upcoming hospital promotion.
1:30 p.m. Lunch
2:30 p.m. Meeting with an event organizer regarding the new fundraising initiative they would like us to be involved with.
3:30 p.m. Update budgets with revenue projections and expenses tracking it against previous years.
4:00 p.m. Conference call with graphic designer regarding latest brochure and collateral material proofs.
5:00 p.m. Respond to participant emails, monitor event Facebook and Twitter activity and assist an event participant over the phone as they send out an email for donations to friends and family.
 

I spend most of my time... making sure everyone who contributes to the success of the event is on track in terms of our schedule. Many components of events are interdependent, ie. the brochures can’t go out until the website is launched, load-in schedules can’t be drawn up until the venue is confirmed. Connecting with our various suppliers and providers to ensure everyone is on track occupies a large portion of my day and is crucial for a successful event. In addition to dealing with suppliers and partners, I talk to our event participants, which helps to keep everything in focus.

Three common challenges:

Staying on top of overlapping event timelines and multiple suppliers. Making sure every event participant (2,500+) feels appreciated and supported. Looking for ways to differentiate and promote your event from the many other events out there.

Most rewarding moments: Each event that wraps is a rewarding moment in and of itself, but it’s the participants and event organizers that really make the long hours worthwhile. The post event emails, visits and phone calls from participants letting me know how much they appreciate our efforts or how important participating in the event was to them is truly heartwarming. Our donors and event participants are so passionate about the cause and have both heartbreaking and inspiring stories to share. Being able to be a small part of their journey is a privilege.

Recommended education to get this job: A business degree will give you a great foundation of the fundamentals you need for a career in this field. Event planners need to understand budgets, how to market and promote events and how to lead teams of both staff and volunteers. There are some great post-graduate programs in events and fundraising that will develop your skills even further. Before leaping into any specialized course I suggest volunteering for numerous events so you can find out where your interests lie. The event planning industry is so diverse that you can really carve out a niche for yourself. Just make sure it is one you enjoy.

Knowing what I know now: I would recommend that if you want to be in the special events industry don’t enter into it because you like attending glamorous parties or events. Event planners work behind the scenes; following production schedules, troubleshooting issues, negotiating contracts, moving garbage cans and lugging around boxes.

This isn’t a nine-to-five job, which means you really need to love what you are doing and find a great team to work with as they will become your second family. Having an amazing team to support you and really believing in the cause makes those late nights so much easier and more enjoyable.

If you are someone who can see the big picture and loves getting into the details while providing a great customer experience then you’ve find your dream career path. There is no bigger adrenaline rush than seeing your months of planning and hours of prep and come to fruition in a successful event.

Help others with their career research and choices by sharing information about what you do. If you would like to be featured in A Day in the Life, please contact us at editor@charityvillage.com.

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