Want to work in… an event marketing agency?
Events have always been all about experience. But in the last few years, marketers have realised the value of engaging their clients’ audience on a more interactive level rather than simply sending messages via traditional medium. Consequently events or ‘experiential marketing’ are firmly in the marketing mix of many agencies. That’s good news for event managers who now have even more employment choices. As far as we’re concerned working in an event marketing agency sounds like pretty exciting stuff but let’s get the low down from someone who knows. We sat down with Leanne Bamford Barnes, current Manager of Training and Assessment here at College of Event Management, but formerly Senior freelancer in events and experiential marketing for a wide variety of clientele. Here’s here side of the agency story…
Q. Can you explain what experiential marketing is? And how does it cross over into events?
A. Brands use experiential marketing to create unique face to face experiences for their customers. These experiences are designed to be authentic, engaging and memorable two-way interactions. Not only does the attendee have the experience on the day but there is often a digital extension of these real experiences bringing yet another dimension to the event.
Q. Is it as glam as it looks?
A. I wish! It can be glam for the attendees or consumers experiencing the activation but its not necessarily glam for those of us who work behind the scenes that make it all happen.
The best word I can think of to describe experiential marketing is dynamic. It’s faced paced and always evolving. It’s a great environment if you love new ideas, problem solving and working in a team.
Q. Can you briefly take us through your career trajectory?
A. I worked in experiential marketing for 15 years in Sydney and London. I love change and new challenges so I have moved around quite a lot, working for agencies of all shapes and sizes. I have also worked in full time permanent roles and as a freelancer.
My most recent career move was into education working at CoEM. Working at CoEM has allowed me to use my industry experience but to also work in an environment that is very similar to an agency, which I love.
Q. What would a normal work day look like for an event coordinator/manager in an agency?
A. Most days you are working in the office with your team, planning, problem solving, workshopping ideas, writing briefs and meeting with clients and suppliers.
The activation or event day is such a small part of the overall event process so you really do need to be comfortable working in an office environment doing a lot of administration and planning.
Agency life is very social and a lot of fun. There is never a dull moment and you are guaranteed to make some lifelong friends.
Q. If someone wanted to work in an event agency, where would you suggest they start?
A. In today’s market, industry are looking for qualifications and experience for entry level roles. An industry recognised qualification is just a starting point. Consider these other ways to build up your work portfolio and make valuable connections:
Work at events on a casual basis. This is a great way to get hands on experience at an event – you can see behind the scenes, interact with attendees and work with experienced event professionals. Many agencies hire team leaders from promotional staffing agencies into their Event Coordinator roles because they had been able to demonstrate they had good problem solving skills and that they could work with and lead a team.
Volunteering at events is highly regarded by our industry. It shows your commitment and dedication and it can help you stand out from the crowd. When you volunteer you begin your networking in this industry, it’s a great way to meet potential employers.
Interning whilst you are studying can help to open doors too. Show potential employers what you have got! These days many agencies are offering paid internships too – it’s a win-win scenario.
Join industry groups on LinkedIn, join or follow local and international associations, and follow companies that you would like to work for or whose work you love. It’s important to start building relationships and be aware of what is happening in the industry.
Q. What are some memorable moments from your career?
A. There are two memorable moments at every event that I work on.
- When an event is up and running smoothly I always take a moment to look around and observe what we, as a team, have created. I closely watch the attendees to see how they are reacting to the experience and I use these insights in the next project that I work on.
- The second moment is when the event or activation is officially over and the bump out begins. This is when the team is on a high and there is a rush of relief, excitement and pride in the work we have done to make the event happen. The comradery that you feel with your team is addictive and I’m sure that is why so many people work in events.
Q. Were there any low points in your career? How did you overcome your these challenges?
A. There was a point in my career where I had lost my passion for what I was doing. I was ready for a new challenge and wanted to feel re-invigorated about my career. So, after consulting with friends who work in the industry I decided to start freelancing. This motivated me to get several clients and produce great work so they would ask me back to work for them again and again.
Yes, it was scary to try something new like this, and I wasn’t always confident that it would work as a career option, but it did. I overcame my fears and the doubts that I had, found several clients who I worked with on multiple projects and who still contact me years later to see if I will come back to join them on a new project.
Q. What’s the best example of experiential marketing you’ve ever seen?
A. Keep an eye on these Australian agencies who are creating amazing – and award winning – experiences:
Here is a campaign from Guinness. What I love about this is that it is simple but effective, the results speak for themselves.
Q. What advice would you give to any aspiring event managers?
A. My number one tip to all of our students is this: don’t underestimate the power of the connections you make in our industry! Your colleagues and peers can open career doors for you if you consistently produce high quality work and are known for you hard work and work ethic. Don’t rely on Seek or other job search sites to get a job. Use your connections and be proactive, contacting companies that you want to work for even if they aren’t hiring at the time.