Lecturing Legend – Patrick O’Reilly

Patrick O'Reily

Time for another CoEM lecturer super hero profile. This month’s victim is none other than Patrick O’Reilly, an amazing guy with a specific expertise in large, outdoor cultural and community festivals. And what a busy event festival person he is. Apart from offering his valuable time and knowledge to the CoEM students on the subjects of concept development and feasibility, Patrick can usually be found mixing it with contractors, stall holders, councils, the police department and anyone else necessary to run an enormously complex outdoor event. One thing can be sure, no matter who or what he is dealing with he does so with an air of positivity and a great sense of humour. Over to you Patrick…

Q. Name?
A. Patrick O’Reilly

Q. Years in event management industry?
A. 23 years in events (starting at the bottom) and 10 years before that exhibiting in events. Most of my career has been in contract exhibition management but I have diversified the last few years into major street festivals.

Q. What do you love most about working in event management?
A. It is exciting: anything and everything can happen at any time, it is intense and highly pressured and when the event is on the buck stops with you… I love having potentially 200-500 contractors and stall holders relying on me to get everything right in an event that starts at 1am with road closures and concludes at 10pm when the roads are reopened with 130,000 people having been through and having had a great time without incident. Plus you get to start and finish multiple projects each year – every day is different.

Q. Tell us about your current role?
A. My wife Rachele and I run the Norton Street Italian Fiesta, the Ettalong Oyster Festival, the Kings Cross Food and Wine Festival and a new series of events called the Leichhardt Long Lunch.

Norton Street Festa

Norton Street Festa

Q. Favorite event you have worked on (and why)?
A. The event I am most proud of is a portfolio of exhibitions called the Timber and Working with Wood Shows that we began as 1 exhibition in Melbourne in 1990 and grew into 9 exhibitions each year in all the major venues and in all the capital cities in Australia and New Zealand – they are still going now.

Q. Favorite event of all time (and why)?
A. The event that was the most fun was the Kings Cross Food and Wine Festival in October last year – a new event that went off like a dream. The event had a real buzz about it and it was really interesting closing off the streets at 1am on a Saturday night in the Cross and trying to build stages and stalls just as the lock-outs started!

Q. Tips to get a job in the event management industry?
A. Become proficient at CAD as you will always get the job over someone who doesn’t have that skill, always show enthusiasm and network and volunteer like crazy.

Q. Tips to be an awesome event manager?
A. Obviously be super organised before the event, prepare for everything that might go wrong and stay totally calm on the day – if you look nervous, or are nervous, you immediately transfer your angst onto others which can be disastrous. Surround yourself with the best people you can.

Q. Have you encountered any obstacles?
4 deaths, 2 amputations, countless heart attacks and broken bones, airline strikes, torrential rain, drunks and druggies, punch ups, lost children, massive theft, electrocution and an escaped black snake – each one is a separate story…

Q. What’s the worst job you have had?
A. Looking for the snake.

Q. Career highlights?
A. Setting up my own business and surviving. Winning the Excellence in Business Ethics Award from the NSW Business Chamber.

Q. What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt working in events?
A. Ensure those that are paying you have a great event – If your sponsors, stand holders at an exhibition, stall holders at a festival or market, visitors to a concert, etc all have a great experience it means that you got every aspect of the event right from concept to marketing to logistics and operations.

Q. How would you define success?
A. Everyone still loves you when the event is all over and not having had to wear a tie for 25 years.

Q. Who inspires you?
A. Anybody that has a good crack at life.

Q. What do you look for when you are hiring new people into your team? 
A. Work ethic, enthusiasm, punctuality, good written and oral communication skills, experience, computer literate, sunny attitude.

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