The EVCOM Live Awards were recently held at Olympia, London and Ashfield Meetings & Events’ Laura Ellis took home the Rising Star award.
Laura joined Ashfield Meetings & Events in April 2012 as a Project Manager, she quickly progressed to the next level of her career and was promoted to Account Manager in August 2014. Laura is now a dedicated Account Manager for one of Ashfield Meetings & Events’ largest accounts and has shown her strengths in this role to significantly develop the account and the people around her. Following her award success, Luke Flett sat down with Laura to learn more about her career to date, influences and inspiration.
What first got you into events?
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do other than organising, so I did my placement year with an events company and loved it so much I never went back to university.
What was your first event with Ashfield Meetings & Events?
A 300-person investigator meeting in Frankfurt for a leading pharmaceutical company. I’d only been with the company for two weeks and had never managed an investigator meeting previously. It was a real baptism of fire but the best way to learn.
Explain your current role at Ashfield Meetings & Events.
There are two sides to my role; the first is the client and the second is the team. For the client, I am responsible for making sure that their events are delivered to, or exceed, expectations. I monitor key performance indicators, resourcing, client updates and feedback. For the team, I am currently responsible for line managing 13 people, guiding them on project best practiceand their personal development. I hold monthly one-to-ones and twice-yearly appraisals, set objectives and ensure each of them has a development plan in place. A relatively new introduction to my role is working with another client team as performance manager to improve quality, consistency and overall event delivery.
What has changed since you have been running events?
Compliance restrictions have really changed the way that pharmaceutical and healthcare events are managed and delivered. This has affected budgets, destinations, processes and overall event perception.
What have you been most proud of at Ashfield Meetings & Events?
I always feel immensely proud of seeing the team develop and succeed. From a project perspective, pulling off a 950-person event in Milan with a taxi strike on our main arrivals day, over 60 external dinners and 80 ad hoc meetings, was my most challenging to date.
Has the seemingly endless introduction of new technologies affected your work?
Yes, both for the good and for the bad. For interactivity and information purposes this has been hugely advantageous; something that used to take me days to complete can now be auto-completed on a custom-built app. On the negative side, sometimes attendees’ expectations are that everything should be available at the click of a button, such as a transfer request with 20 minutes notice. The taxi strike in Milan was due to the introduction of Uber.
Where do you take inspiration from to keep your events creative?
I read a lot of articles which I’ve found not only keep my events creative but hopefully my management approach too. I watch a lot of TED Talks, YouTube videos and generally always try to ask ‘what if?’. I also regularly look at industry awards such as EVCOM to see what other sectors, agencies and clients are doing to see what inspiration I can use for our client events.
What is your favourite event destination you have worked in to date?
The Ritz-Carlton in Singapore. The service was second to none.
If you could have organised one event (anything) what would it have been?
The 2012 Olympics in London.
What advice would you give to others looking to be the next rising stars of our industry?
Don’t be afraid to give something a go, even something that you didn’t initially want to do. Maybe this could be organising a different event type, working with a different client or in a different role. You never know where it will take you. Also ask for feedback – both the good and the bad – and tackle it head on. The sooner you understand what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what you find hard, the better. Never underestimate the importance of a strong and happy team and never be afraid to challenge the status quo. ‘Because we’ve always done it like that’ is never an acceptable answer.