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Event leadership | 28 October 2021

Soft Skills Every Event Experience Manager Should Have

Bizzabo Blog Staff

With expertise in social and relational skills, you can take your events to the next level.

If juggling virtual events for the past 18 months has taught us anything, it’s that success requires both hard and soft skills.

Hard skills are often on the more technical side — fluency in a language, or proficiency with technology, for instance — whereas soft skills cover the more human aspects of work, like communication, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution, and flexibility.

Event Experience Managers need to be able to juggle a lot at once — especially during the pandemic, which has tested the industry like never before. They need to think quickly on their feet to problem solve, but they also need to strategize well in advance. More than anything, they need to remember that events are inherently human experiences.

According to a PCMA study, just under one-third of event planners cite soft skills as of utmost importance for event strategists to develop in order to find success during the pandemic recovery period. These types of skills are so integral when addressing the changing landscape. A 2021 study by McKinsey and Company shows 69% of organizations put more emphasis on skill building than they did prior to the pandemic.

Here are some of the soft skills that Event Experience Managers should focus on in order to be their most successful.

Empathy

Empathy is often cited as an important characteristic for positions within industries of all shapes and sizes, but because the role is inherently dedicated to inspiring and engaging people, Event Experience Managers must develop a strong degree of empathy in order to be successful.

The pandemic also taught us that in order to understand people’s shifting needs — especially when it comes to personal safety and comfort — we need to be able to put ourselves in others’ shoes. So much of what makes events great is their ability to connect people. Whether it’s online, in-person, or a hybrid event, human connection should always be the goal.

Empathy is a foundational skill when considering the importance of connection. After all, connecting with your customers and prospects is the overarching goal of your event.

Creative Problem Solving

Thinking on your feet has always been a key tool in the kit of any event manager, and COVID emphasized that even further. There are a whole new set of challenges being placed at the feet of event managers today, some of whom are now essentially running two events in one while catering to digital and in-person audiences.

The landscape has also gotten a lot more competitive. While your potential audience has broadened to a global scope, the other side of the coin is that people have a whole world of events to choose from. Being able to bring creative solutions to the table is the best way to stand out. Reliance on new technologies to bring these events to life also introduced a slew of novel challenges that require a creative mind.

Managing Uncertainty

Unpredictability was about the only predictable element of the last two years, and standards continue to change all the time. Event managers today must add emergency preparedness to their to-do lists, and they need back-up plans like they never needed before.

Things aren’t as comfortable as they once were, with seasoned events professionals able to pull off seamless events without much adjusting of the playbook. Now the playbook is off the table.

Anyone who focuses on progress over perfection is likely best able to help right the ship in times of uncertainty. You should seek someone who can react quickly without being reactive. Being able to strategize for disruption, and then adapt when it happens, will serve your future events well.

Effective Communication

With all the moving parts of an event, communication has always been a foundational skill for event managers. There are clients, vendors, spaces, speakers, support staff and more, all who look to the event manager as a single source of truth. Additionally, with many teams now working remotely, most interaction is digital. This means clear, consistent communication over various messaging platforms is crucial. And event leaders are the storytellers of an event.

They should be able to convey to internal and external stakeholders the goals of the event, the why of the event, and the how. This is true from the buy-in phase of getting event budgeting approved, and continues as the Event Experience Leader connects each relevant department of your organization to the outcomes of the event.

Active Listening

The other side of communication is listening. Because event managers work to create a cohesive experience, they must be adept at collecting the feedback and needs of the entire organization. Getting an organization aligned on the goals and objectives of an event is not always an easy feat. Active listening goes a long way in making sure all stakeholders feel heard and that their needs are taken into account.

Active listening also helps an event professional to cut through to the core of a stakeholder’s needs and find the throughline that will make the event the most successful it can be. Not everyone is clear about exactly what they need, so superior active listening skills will support any event leader in getting to the root of anyone’s objectives.

Collaboration

An Event Experience Manager is like the conductor of the orchestra — they have a bird’s-eye view of everything going on around them, and they know how to work with individuals and groups to bring out the best in them. This means speaking the language of whoever you’re working with in order to best integrate into their team as you work together.

Events are no longer the siloed department they once were — event experience is becoming more integrated into various organizational departments all the time. This means event leaders need both the ability to switch “languages” on a dime, and a clear consideration of the needs of others. Sales, content, sponsorship, operations—everyone has a role to play in making an event a true success, and the conductor must move among those teams, and contribute to them as though they belong there.

The events landscape is still evolving all the time, which means these are just some of the soft skills that make for a successful Event Experience Manager. Measuring these types of skills aren’t as easy as testing for more technical aptitude, but putting a focus on training and developing your events team’s soft skills will no doubt pay off in the long run.

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