Lecturing legend – Ilana Larke
What can we possibly say about lecturing legend, part-time course coordinator, go-to gal about college Ilana Larke? We could say a lot in fact. She’s had a stellar career in so many different sectors of this diverse industry; not-for-profit, catering, business events, freelancing, you name it. And with so much experience under her belt we’re so glad that she has chosen CoEM as her place to ‘give back’ (and place to boss everyone around)—lucky us, lucky students.
Q. How many years have you worked in the event management industry?
A. 15 years. I started my career in finance and stockbroking mainly because I didn’t know how to get into events even though it was my passion. Once I found the courses I needed and completed my Diploma, I went straight into an internship, followed by a full time job in the not-for-profit sector working as an event coordinator. It’s been full steam ahead ever since!
I’ve worked in catering, in some of the most iconic venues in Sydney, weddings, private events, movie premieres, business events, worked as a freelance event manager, and now I get to pass on my knowledge through teaching.
Looking back, I gained so many important business and administration skills in the early part of my career, and these definitely helped with my job as an Event Manager.
Q. What do you love most about working in event management?
A. I love that every event is different, and that the market and trends are ever changing. It also gives me a reason for being obsessively organised.
Q. What’s your favourite event that you have worked on?
A. A farewell dinner for the CEO of a major Australian organisation. All employees from Sydney were invited to this particular event – over 5,000 people in total. The event was held on the lawns of the Racecourse, in a specially built marquee as there was no existing marquee big enough. It was amazing to see how 4 makeshift kitchens, 4 makeshift bars and hundreds of waiters and staff could come together to serve dinner to 5,000 people in 14 minutes. It put into perspective the kind of numbers you work with for an event this size when you are ordering flowers, plates, napkins etc by the thousands.
Q. Have you encountered any obstacles during your career?
A. At a stage in my career when I was self employed and running my own events, there were days when it was too much for one person to handle. Having a network of suppliers, contractors and event coordinators I could rely on to help execute the event was the way to get everything done in time.
Q. What’s your favourite event of all time?
A. Vivid Sydney. The city comes alive, it brings people together, it’s magical and best of all it’s free!
Q. What’s the worst job you have had?
A. The worst job I’ve had would be cold calling companies to sponsor or donate a prize for a major gala dinner for a not for profit organisation. The positive side of the job was getting a “yes” for an amazing auction prize.
Q. Tell us one of your career highlights?
A. Hearing from past students who have made their way into the events industry and have landed their dream job. Then they realise that all their hard work has paid off, and the business admin skills they have learnt are so important.
Q. Tips to be an awesome event manager?
- Network and make contacts – you never know, that person sitting next to you at a party could be your next client/supplier/future colleague.
- Be open minded and talk to people. Everyone has something to share and that knowledge may come in useful one day.
- Be organised – use a diary and a calendar. Write to-do lists.
- Learn to become great at time management.
Q. What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt working in events?
A. Creating and executing an event is not a one person job. You need to rely on a team because there are never enough hours in a day!
Q. Tips to get a job in the event management industry?
A. Your volunteer work in events speaks volumes. Get as much experience as you can by volunteering or doing an internship. Not only will you learn great skills, but you will also make contacts with people in the industry.
Q. Who inspires you?
A. My husband. To work from the bottom, up and be great at what you do is one thing. To still have the passion, together with the wisdom, puts it on a whole new level.
Postscript: Ilana is now powering along as the course coordinator for our new online events course!