A Day in the Life of an Event Manager
Opus Agency’s team of event managers operates on the ground and in the moment, creating amazing experiences for our customers’ attendees. We recently managed to get one of them, Event Coordinator Madeline Golden, back in the office long enough to describe the joys, challenges, and mascot-related misadventures involved with being an event management pro.
So what’s a typical day in the life for members of the event management team?
It’s 5:00am on a Monday and I’m at PDX, checked into my flight, scanning unread emails in the TSA line so I know which to respond to first after my in-flight Wi-Fi is up and running. Playbooks are printed and ready to be set out in our onsite office the moment I arrive. I’m thinking about how I’ll question my Uber driver to evaluate if he’ll be a good fit to hire as an on-call driver for the week. Because it’s entirely possible that three hours later, I’ll be looking for a full-sized bear costume, with furry friends to match, in downtown New York. And the hands are on the wheel can mean the difference between success and failure. (That really happened, by the way.)
Bonus second day in the life: You wake up at 5:00am (hey, slept in!) and meet your fellow road warriors in the hotel lobby, coffee in hand and a “let’s do this!” attitude in mind. We arrive at the venue and quickly scatter to our various battle stations, tackling our to-do lists with ninja-like focus. Finalize the catering order, sound check the DJ, meet with the photographer, confirm the driver for our keynote speaker, and…wait, where are the tables I ordered for room 203?
You get the idea.
At any given moment, plating hors d’oeuvres on one side of the pipe and drape while an NFL quarterback is being interviewed on the other. And just like that, you’re summoned over the radio and run (but really more like a calm, cool, and collected powerwalk) to your assigned breakout room to clear up a small bottleneck that’s formed before the 1:00 session.
By the time 7:00 rolls around, you wonder if your feet might actually fall off (pro tip: ice from the hotel hallway dispenser + an inch or two of cold water at the bottom of the tub back in your room = sweet relief). But you dig deep and head to work the 7:30 meet ‘n’ greet.
Sometimes you’re on Grand Cayman and your client desperately needs two goldfish. No problem!
Sounds like there’s never a dull moment. What’s your favorite crazy story from the road (besides the stuffed bear thing)?
There’s no bonding like onsite bonding, and any seasoned vet will tell you things can get a little…interesting when people start getting punchy.
Here’s an example: It’s the day before show, and I’m approached by a grinning account manager—not a good sign. She tells me we need to get a mascot costume in someone’s hotel bed ASAP. My blank stare must have said it all, because she quickly added, “Our client wants to have a little fun with her boss, and recruited us to make it happen.”
Ten minutes later, I’m running down the streets of Paris with my arms struggling to hold onto a five-foot-tall, M&M-shaped mascot costume, thinking there’s no way the Uber driver will let me into his car. I phone my hotel contact on the way, letting her know I need to meet ASAP and will explain when I get there. I arrive at the 5-star hotel moments later and the deer-in-the-headlights hotel employee quickly ushers me past financiers sipping café au laits and happy tourist families heading out for a day on the town. I make it to the suite, tuck our precious mascot in safe and sound, and quickly and quietly get back to (more typical) work.
So, yeah. Onsite adventures.
We’ve been known to source entire menageries of inflatable animals.
Why do you love such a challenging job? And what are some common misconceptions about the work?
Being an event manager is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. But you have to consider the stakes—we’re not soldiers, first responders, physicians, or case workers. Those people are true everyday heroes.
Still, it’s not easy. If you just follow along on social media, it might look like it’s all champagne toasts and glamorous travel. In reality, most days onsite are long, hard, and challenging in at-times unexpected ways.
But with that said, I love my job and my colleagues. There’s nothing quite like kicking your feet up on your hotel bed at the end of the day, enjoying a hard-earned refreshment, and knowing you just pulled off something most can’t. Having the drive and determination to orchestrate seemingly impossible, multifaceted events as they unfold in real-time with poise and finesse is a trait you just can’t help but be proud of.
Impromptu food handling? We’ve been there.
So how do you explain “the lifestyle” to prospective event management pros?
It takes strategy and strength—we’re forward thinkers and behind-the-line warriors. We get it done before our clients ask, and fix it before it’s broken. It’s our job to handle ourselves while handling other people, which requires using your head and your heart simultaneously. It might sound easy, but it’s not. But we love it.
Being an event manager means being a juggler, driver, negotiator, and artist. You know that one friend you go to when you need help, because you just need someone to read your mind and get it done? That’s us, and that’s how we treat each other—with trust. Opus event managers don’t get hired because of our mad Excel skills or willingness to work double duty when necessary (but, yeah, those too). We get hired because our clients trust us, and trust that it will all get done, on time, polished, and wrapped up in a bow.
How do you build trust with a friend? You call them, check in, remember their birthday, and plan a surprise party in their favorite theme. We do all of that, for our client’ events. We know the logistics, we drive the timeline, and we create the tangible experience that our clients see in their head because we approach every opportunity with an innovative eye. It’s not an accident; it’s something we actually work very hard on.
Here’s the thing; the event is going to happen, whether you like it or not. An event manager can’t request extensions or ask the venue to build a new ballroom because they don’t have anything available on the date your client requested. What we can do is take our challenges and turn them into ideas that are better than the original.
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