Law, order and cold-water swimming…meet Sophie
After considering a career in law, Sophie met BeaconHouse Events co-founders Sarah and Catherine during her university year in industry, where she really got a taste for events and realised that this was the sector where her skills and passion lay. She joined the team 2017 and is a now a Senior Events Manager using her experience and people engagement skills to lead large, high-impact events for clients across a wide range of sectors.
We grabbed a coffee and sat down with Sophie to talk about what she does why she loves working in corporate events, what a typical week looks like for her and the virtues of cold water swimming…
What made you first consider a career in event management?
When I first started looking for university placements, I was looking at the different aspects of marketing and engagement and while a lot of those looked really interesting, I started to think about what I enjoy doing outside of work – and naturally I’m a planner! In my friendship group I’ve always been the one that enjoys organising the trips or the birthday parties – I’m pretty detail oriented and love an agenda or organised fun, so it was a fairly natural fit once I understood what would be involved if I did this full-time as a career.
Did you know a lot about the industry before you started in the industry?
Not at all. My first role was at another events agency, ‘Benchmark Communications’ whilst I was studying and the kinds of events that we were working on there were big scale, with thousands of attendees from sectors like academia and healthcare. It was a total crash course – new vocabulary including ‘delegates’ and ‘plenary’, it was all totally new and I enjoyed soaking up every minute.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I always wanted to be a barrister, even throughout secondary school that was always the path I was going to take. I was even part of a mock-law team where we would debate cases and observe real trials in court – I loved it. Then, when I was looking at options for university there was a lot of talk in the media about there being too many people applying for law school and speculation about what the job prospects looked like for people coming out of a law degree with so much competition. My favourite topics at A Level were Business Studies and Economics, so after that I started to look at other avenues where I could continue learning about those subjects and potentially do law conversion later which is how I ended up gaining my degree in Marketing and Business Studies and never looked back.
What skills do you think attracted you to law, that you now bring to event management?
Definitely that eye for detail is important but I think more than that, it is about being a critical listener with clients, and the rest of your team; to really understand what problem they are trying to solve and what they are trying to achieve. Having a cool head under pressure is definitely a bonus too, you have to be pretty unflappable to work in the events industry!
What does a typical week look like for you?
A lot of my clients are tech focused which is a really interesting and fast moving sector to be part of. Currently I’m working on the DIBI Conference up in Edinburgh which is a gathering of UX professionals and tech creatives, as well as working with Opencast on their internal events programme which is a large, ongoing project. My week is usually split between client work, strategy meetings and 1-2-1s with the team on their development; it usually comes as a surprise to people that 90% of our time is spent at a desk. It’s the 10% that you spend onsite delivering an event that is usually the most seen, but most of our role is about strategy, research and planning, all before we ever set foot in an event space.
I tend to work with clients who are all pretty different from each other, and the types of events we are planning with them are diverse, but what keeps it really interesting is that they are all at a different part of their lifecycle. That means in a single week I can be working with clients on initial scoping for a project, while other clients are in that middle development stage or in full delivery and evaluation mode.
How do you like to work with clients?
I like to think of us an extension of our client’s team, we really get to know their business and work with everyone from people and experience teams through to internal communications leads to do everything logistics wise, but also being a sounding board for ideas and sparking creativity about what is possible. We take on a really collaborative approach, it’s a great feeling to be welcomed into so many fantastic teams in the region and across the wider UK to understand the amazing work they are doing.
What do you enjoy about mentoring the next generation of talent in the industry?
It is incredibly rewarding to see the next cohort of talent come into BeaconHouse Events and into the industry. As a team we have a real spread of experience – we have always found that there are people with such great talent out there with perfectly transferable skills for events, seeing that talent and drive come out is incredibly rewarding. Events is a great career to learn on the job and it is so fulfilling to see people as they grow in confidence and thrive.
What do you think surprises people about your role?
I spent seven years with ASM Global – the company behind the new Sage complex, Utilita Arena and Playhouse Whitley Bay – whilst there I very much worked on those conventional experiences that people tend think of when you talk about event planning, things like Disney on Ice or a major ballet production. The corporate side of things does tend to get forgotten a little bit.
What is surprising to people is how much cross-over there is between those big consumer events and what we deliver for our current clients. By looking at how we design events to learn from those consumer experiences, we can help people to connect in a more authentic way, to adopt new innovative ways of learning and to make memories that they want to talk about and share. We want people to be engaged with the content we are producing and are always looking to learn and adapt the format of events to make them really enjoyable for the people attending. With the emergence of digital and hybrid events making the competition much higher for people’s attention, there needs to be a real pull to get delegates to attend your event over another.
What has been your career highlight so far?
I can’t choose one event to be my favourite, because I like them all for different reasons, but when I look at the range of events that I’ve been lucky enough to work on that makes me feel very proud. We’ve had everyone from a Prime Minister at an event to Deborah Meadon from Dragon’s Den and I’ve delivered experiences for tens of thousands of people. When you look back at the accumulation of all of those together it is pretty amazing.
Outside of work what can we find you doing?
Other than enjoying the Newcastle’s foodie venues, I love being outdoors and making the most of the North East coastline. Last summer myself and Katie, another event manager here, took up sea swimming so we try and go once a week now, even in the winter! Sometimes we do ten minutes…sometimes longer, depending on how cold it is but it is completely addictive and I really miss it when we have to skip it for whatever reason. We go on a Monday lunch-time and it totally sets you up for the week – you end up with endorphins for the whole day afterwards.
And finally, what would your dream event be to work on?
I’m obsessed with skincare (my one piece of advice would be to wear SPF every day and no-one is listening to me in the office!) so it would have to be a huge expo type event with expert speakers, what is new in active ingredients, little villages of people exhibiting the latest products, French pharmacy style pop-ups, the works.
If you are interested in joining Sophie in a career in events, we would love to hear from you. Visit https://www.beaconhouse-events.co.uk/join-us/ to view our current vacancies.
Posted on April 12, 2023