Handling multiple tasks
"Sometimes it can be as simple as arranging a meeting or a lunch, or as complicated as arranging a solo exhibition in a foreign country which requires extensive travel and co-ordination with service providers and colleagues overseas," says Phoebe Tsang, assistant manager for product promotion at Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
Event managers liaise with internal and external parties to establish the basic facts of the event, such as when it is happening, how big it will be and what is the target audience, before recommending a suitable venue.
Having set the initial details, they select service providers, including agencies that provide contingent manpower for the event, caterers, security and insurance, and arrange transport for visitors and staff.
Other tasks include planning for contingencies - whether that be rain, overcrowding or a low turnout - drafting and overseeing the programme rundown, collecting feedback from participants and writing reports.
In the hotel sector, event managers work with other hotel departments to ensure that their clients' needs are met, says Jackey Ma, assistant director for catering and conference services at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Hong Kong.
"You can be dealing with different possibilities, from finding monogrammed gold napkins for one event to building simultaneous translation booths for another. We also have to make ourselves available to our clients during the event, even if that means staying late in the evenings or working on weekends," Ma says.
Getting your foot on the career ladder
- Most people start their careers as assistant event managers, says Katherine Tang, event planning and co-ordination manager at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. They should have an academic background in tourism or event management, and at least three years' experience in areas such as public relations or marketing.
- Professionals with one to two years' experience will become an event manager, with pay of HK$15,000 to HK$25,000 a month, before moving on to managerial roles.
- The Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Industry Association and Hong Kong Productivity Council jointly offer a professional diploma in meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions and event management.
- The course covers event planning and co-ordination, sales and marketing, public relations, budgeting and the use of technology.
Flexibility is key
- Something always goes wrong in the course of organising an event, so when that happens, it is important to be flexible and to tackle the problem as it arises according to the circumstance. Event managers also need to be level-headed to be able to focus on fixing the problem rather than panicking.
- Events management is about bringing people together, so event managers need to be able to understand how people think, and know when to offer advice and listen. It's also important to be patient and have an eye for detail.