Professional Development: Level Up From Event Manager to Event Experience Leader
Navigating the ever-changing pandemic has pushed event managers to evolve, adapt, and grow, leading many to a new role: Event Experience Leader.
The Event Experience Leader is event manager 2.0. It’s a role that requires the same knowledge about event planning that you needed in the pre-COVID “good old days,” plus a healthy dose of new skills and adaptability.
Workplace culture is changing quickly, and event professionals are uniquely poised to help their companies navigate the new normal. Those who can rise to the challenge will reap the rewards.
“It’s comparable to riding a bike down a fast-paced hill in hypergrowth and change,” said Devin Cleary, vice president of global events at Bizzabo, during the Event Experience Summit. “Everything is flashing past you. There are huge bumps along the way, and you have to learn as you go. All the while, it’s a thrilling ride.”
Leveling Up: From Event Manager to Event Experience Leader
Three key trends are converging in the events industry, allowing event planners to position themselves as the new Event Experience Leaders.
1. Teams Are Distributed
Remote work is here to stay. That means teams are spread around, and new workers can often be onboarded without going into the office. Even event teams can be distributed. But that means new employees can’t partake in the typical day-to-day exchanges where institutional knowledge is frequently shared.
You can’t “swivel around in your chair” to share with a teammate or answer a question, said Daphne Earp Hoppenot, the founder of event industry marketplace The Vendry. Rather, in the absence of casual in-office exchanges (e.g., which private dining a CEO loves or which venues to avoid because of slow elevators), Event Experience Leaders can create systems for helping remote employees understand guidelines and best practices.
Event Experience Leaders can also lean into their experience and lend their expertise as trends emerge. That can include the following:
- Helping oversee a wider variety of events, even when they pop up at the last minute
- Encouraging a unified set of standards and practices for localized events
- Ensuring workers maintain brand consistency
- Establishing a baseline level of excellence
- Boosting their hybrid and virtual event skills with certifications and certificates
2. Workers Crave Connection
The rapid adoption of remote and hybrid offices is the beginning of a new era of change within work culture. Event professionals at every level can step up and create value.
“You have the skillset to help people define their new normal,” Hoppenot said. “And with that will come new growth opportunities.”
With an experienced Event Experience Leader at the helm, companies can recalibrate their budgets and navigate the unknowns of today’s evolving work culture.
Many companies are reimaging organizational structure, creating chief people officer positions and redistributing money that would’ve gone to office space or travel. Event Experience Leaders can step into the conversation and advocate for investment in internal events that boost the brand and create camaraderie among team members who may be dispersed across multiple locations.
“Event professionals are going to be the ones with the skill sets that will be foundational to the company culture,” Hoppenot said.
Seasoned event planners will also have insights into the company’s challenges and opportunities. For example, virtual or hybrid events may allow for junior workers to speak or lead classes or workshops in their area of expertise. Event Experience Leaders can encourage companies to budget for coaching lessons for less seasoned speakers.
As you set yourself up for that success, professional development can include the following:
- Improving hard skills, such as the ability to navigate new software features
- Earning some key certificates or licenses to establish your expertise in a unique area, such as government meetings or business travel management
- Building the soft skills event planners need, such as empathy, collaboration, and active listening
“It’s so important that we sharpen our best tool, which is ourselves,” Cleary said.
3. Attendees Have Higher Expectations
Today’s event attendees have higher expectations for content and customization of events, which means the typical event manager job has become much more dynamic and calls for a reframing of the job description. In the age of Event Experience, employers will want their Event Experience Managers to present ideas that have an impact and deliver proof of success.
With travel down and flexibility up, the true Event Experience Leader can use their creative design skills to advocate for the new attendee journey.
What does the new landscape of event planning look like? Corporate event budgets are down. The demand for local events is up. There will be more roadshows and small, curated events. When people do make their way to a more significant event, they expect the “wow” factor.
“Event professionals have always been creative. But again, it’s a bit about documenting that creativity and thinking about the attendee journey with an extra level of nuance.”
Daphne Earp Hoppenot
Event Experience Leaders can focus on the small gestures that go a long way, such as asking ahead of an event what attendees’ preferred pronouns are and getting to know them as individuals so they can customize the experience journey.
They can also advocate for at least three weeks of solid brainstorming time to look for inspiration, repackage ideas, and offer a fresh perspective. It’s not always the splashiest, most expensive ideas that have the most significant impact, either. To plan effective, successful events, Cleary suggested following the “Four Es” of experience design:
Start Your Transition to Event Experience Leader
For more ideas about how to consider leveling up from event manager to Event Experience Leader, watch “Leveling Up From Event Manager to Event Experience Leader” with Devin Cleary and Daphne Earp Hoppenot — and the entire Event Experience Summit — on-demand now.