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Ready for any event-uality: Meet our Event Manager Katie

After training as an actor and realising that life under the lights wasn’t for her, our event manager Katie stepped off the stage and into a career in events. A staunch ‘Boro supporter, Katie moved to Newcastle from Cornwall to be closer to Riverside Stadium and brought her passion with her to the BeaconHouse team over 5 years ago. We caught up with Katie to find out how her stage training helps her to deal with the unexpected on-site, the perks of working in a dog-friendly office, and the time she traveled to Borneo to meet a semi-wild orangutan…

Hi Katie! You’ve been at BeaconHouse Events since 2018 what did you study? 

Seventeen-year-old Katie thought that Acting would be a sensible choice for a university degree! I wanted to go to university and I always enjoyed, and was good at, drama at school so I took a place in the Acting degree. I did my first two years in Bournemouth and finished my final year here in Newcastle before heading up to Edinburgh for a month to perform in a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

What did your first role look like after Uni? Did you know you wanted to work in the events sector right away? 

When I got back from the Edinburgh Fringe, I knew that a career in acting wasn’t right for me. The reason I didn’t pursue a career on the stage is that I found it too stressful, I didn’t enjoy the pressure and the anxiety of going on stage so I came back to Newcastle and ran a B&B; cooking breakfasts for 40 people, cleaning the rooms and working behind the front desk which was a complete change from what I was used to! From there I started working on Reception for a large chain hotel which I really enjoyed. After I had been there a little while, they happened to need support in the events team while a colleague was off sick and asked if I would be interested in joining the team and covering. I was good at it and I guess the rest is history! Working in events was nothing I ever planned for – I’m not a natural planner outside of work.

I knew that a role in the venue was not something I wanted to do long-term, but I wanted to stay in the industry and stay in the North East, so when I saw the role advertised at BeaconHouse I jumped at the opportunity.

While working in a venue is completely different from working agency side, it is still very busy and you have to learn to juggle a lot of tasks at once and maintain a level of professionalism. I think that knowledge of what goes into an event from a venue perspective, and the on-the-ground learning in that role, really helped me to transition into the event manager position here at BeaconHouse pretty quickly.

Did your stage training prepare you for a career in the events sector? 

While I didn’t enjoy the pressure that comes with performing, it did prepare me for being able to step out of my comfort zone and to positively react to any situation, which is helpful when you are on-site and dealing with any number of possible scenarios. Working on-site is my favourite part of the role and having the skills to be able to think on your feet when you are dealing with delegates, venues, and clients is definitely a skill that I’ve brought with me – the show must go on right!

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Did you always want to be an actor? 

Not at all, I either wanted to be a vet or I wanted to run my own rehabilitation centre for orangutans in Borneo!

While I was working with the events team at the hotel I had the opportunity to take eight months to go exploring and I was lucky enough to see a semi-wild orangutan in Borneo which was just an incredible experience. I have a curiosity to try and experience new things which I think is a skill that is really valued in the events industry – being curious and excited to bring new experiences to our events is a huge part of the role and you can only create new things if you take an interest in the wider world around you and are inspired by it.

You’re originally from Cornwall, why did you choose to build your career here in the North East? 

I have family connections to Teesside and am a huge Middlesbrough fan. I originally intended to move here for a year, go to loads of games, and then move back down South, but I completely fell in love with the region and didn’t want to leave! I don’t think I could live anywhere else in the UK now; I’m one of five siblings and none of us live any further South than Sheffield!

I have a golden Labrador, Luna, and the North East is such a great place to explore with her too.

Speaking of Luna, the BeaconHouse office in Hoults Yard is dog friendly – what does that mean for your work-life balance? 

It’s amazing. I had always wanted a dog, but I didn’t think that there would be enough flexibility working in events to do it. About a year into the role I decided that I would like to get one so I spoke to Sarah and Cat and asked if I could change my working hours to have longer lunch breaks so I could cycle home and walk her, and asked if she would be able to come into the office sometimes and they said yes. When she was just a pup she would just come in on a Friday so she wasn’t too disruptive, but now she is older she comes in all the time. Though we’ve not trained her to be helpful on-site yet! She would love to welcome delegates.

The office is perfectly located to walk her on lunchtime by the river or along the Hadrian’s Wall cycle path which is also nearby. Bringing Luna into the office gives me a real incentive to step away from my desk over lunch and get some fresh air; I value that hour to be able to think, come up with new ideas, and re-focus, especially with the busy season that we have coming up.

Are there any misconceptions about the industry that you would like to see banished in 2023? 

I still don’t think there is a lot of understanding about the level of work and level of detail that goes into the events that we create, especially outside of the sector. I remember during my first week at BeaconHouse Events, I was working on a major awards event and was asked to write the script for the evening – I had no idea that that was part of what an event agency would do! All these little things go into making an event a success and we often spend over a year researching and planning for our clients which is the part no one sees. As a team, we are already planning experiences for September 2024 and there are always events at different parts of their planning life cycles running simultaneously. The job is so much more than the common stereotype of booking rooms, walking around with a clipboard, and ordering lunch.

Is there a particular part of the process that you love getting involved in? 

I do love the end point of being on-site and seeing months of hard work cumulate into an experience that the client is proud of. I do like the pressure and the high stakes of being on-site too.

I also spend a lot of time pre-event working with speakers to make sure that they feel comfortable and prepared before they get up on stage which I enjoy. I hate public speaking so I think I can empathise with what would make me feel more confident. We have so many different types of speakers partnering with us for events, and not everyone does it professionally – often they are simply experts in their subject matter and need some additional support to make sure that they have everything they need in advance to do an amazing job. It can be nerve-wracking to stand up in front of 600 people so knowing that there is someone there who has your back and can walk you through the process is only going to add to the quality of the event.

Do you have any events that you look forward to every year? 

That’s a hard one because I work with so many different clients and it is the variety that is part of the reason I love my role but one that stands out is Planet Mark. They have been a client of mine since they first partnered with BeaconHouse in 2018 and each year we deliver their annual awards, looking after everything from guest booking and management, sponsorship relationship management, budget management, and cost control. Together with the management of the entries and judging process, script writing, production, staging and AV, venue management and liaison, and venue dressing.

It has been fantastic to see the team grow in the time we have worked together and to have been a part of the amazing things they have achieved.

And finally, who would your dream client be? 

I’m not sure that I have a dream client as such but if there was an opportunity to put on an event that encompassed all of the things that I love; sustainable travel, food, good wine then I’m there! I love outdoor events, like the kind we organise for The Great Run Company, so I would like to deliver more of those. They are a totally different kettle of fish to a traditional corporate event – there is so much to consider when it comes to health and safety and logistics, even the weather has a role to play!