Our spotlight interview for August is Andy Edwards, Independent Events Professional. We asked Andy several questions in our spotlight interview based around his professional career and challenges he has been through to get to where he is today. Some very inspirational words, read more below to find out what he had to say:
1. Tell us about your professional experience within the industry so far and your journey to being an Independent Events Professional.
I’ve had in total 18 years’ experience within the hospitality and events industry. I started off modestly in hospitality, working everywhere from a barman, receptionist and then a conference co-ordinator for the likes of Marriott Group & Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. I liked it so much I studied Events & Hospitality at degree level at the University of Gloucestershire. Whilst at University, I continued to dabble in hotels & for 7 months, lived in Orlando, Florida; continuing my love for the industry & learning hospitality the American way!
Once I graduated, I decided to go into a corporate agency to experience the industry from another point of view. Starting as a client Coordinator I quickly progressed to Client Manager, which was a role responsible for multiple accounts, ensuring their venue finding, meetings & accommodation requirements were met to the highest standards. In 2011, I moved directly into events, specifically as a specialist in entertainment, team building & theming, which was of huge interest to me as it involved a wedge of creativity & charisma!
I subsequently pursued this expertise within the corporate agency arena, becoming a Senior Event Specialist, yet still supporting & delivering events for various customers. Events in all forms was truly my passion; so much so, that I became integral to the delivery of many key accounts including BP Shipping, Virgin Media & Boots. My event delivery and passion for strategising became clear, and in 2015 was offered an Event Director position.
After 3 years, I decided to mix it up by leaving the corporate world and I was fortunate to manage B2C on-shore events for Imagine Cruising. High-end cruise customers with an event baked into their cruise holiday package - generally speaking, the ‘event’ was the reason why customers booked their package. The type of events hosted were phenomenal; from concerts to exclusive dinners - the highest quality and delivery was always in order.
I then took the leap on starting up on my own, not before travelling South East Asia for 6 months. I’ve always had the ambition to be my own boss and build a reputable company. My experience & knowhow has hopefully stood me in good stead for this venture. I’ve already had my first event - and this was in Bali with Imagine Cruising - their largest event to date.
2. What have been your highlights and most proud moment so far working in the industry?
There have been some extraordinary events that I have had the honour of organising and directing; coupled with accolades and recognition from the industry to testament the hard work is so, very rewarding. My highlight has to be my time working closely with Bp Shipping. 4 years of high-end events all executed with a fantastic team, both from a supplier & customer perspective, all around the globe. The finale was managing their Centennial events in 2015, which were held respectively in Singapore, Chicago, Houston, and on BP Shipping’s birthday, Central London. The event saw 500+ privileged and honoury guests including 10 of the past BP CEOs all congregate at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel, for a grand dinner, with tributes & media from the past 100 years including a speech made by current CEO, Bob Dudley. Every event in the series was different, yet each had to be meticulously organised and adapted to the venue & area of the world of which is was hosted. These events ran from April to May 2015, so time was very tight, and precision was vital. The result was evident - winning C&IT Best Energy & Utility Event category, as well as contributing to my personal achievement of C&IT A List the following year. This to date remains my proudest period in my career, due to the nature of the events & the achievements it represented.
3. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced?
Only this year I took a short break from the industry to enjoy travelling throughout South East Asia. Whilst travelling I was given the opportunity to start my freelancing career early by entirely managing a ‘Back to the 80’s’ festival in Bali. I only had basic equipment including a laptop, to operate such large event logistics; artist liaison, catering, venue, tickets, branding, flow & staffing, to name a few. A huge amount of work, but eventually paying off considerably where the customer & their guests were amazed with the final results - a truly memorable moment in my career and to kick off my freelancing venture.
4. What led you to this career in the events industry?
A combination of things I would say. Firstly, my love for good service and hospitality - as a boy I always wanted to work in the service industry and my passion just grew and grew. Since University I went into the agency world and spent the majority of my career working in venue find, meetings & events. Finally, I went ‘fully events’ in 2011 and haven’t looked back!
5. Do you see any trends emerging when it comes types of events and requirements from clients?
The requirements I find stay largely the same; the end result requiring an engaging event, meeting a customers’ objective. However, the journey of reaching this end goal differs and I have witnessed technology, used in the right way of course, is becoming more integral to delivering better results. How we interact with people can be measured throughout the event, not just afterwards where the message then is too late to communicate. Additionally, the increase in event platforms involving technology, such as video conferences, is slowly evolving the events world & how we adapt as event professionals will be essential. Having said this, I’m a strong believer in people communicating better face to face and the sense of togetherness is fundamental on nearly all events. Merging the two is key, but technology is certainly here to stay.
6. Can you summarise a typical day in your shoes?
The beauty of this industry, and particularly freelancing, every day is entirely different!
Never a dull moment and never be quiet - that’s a rule I have. If I’m not working on a project or executing an event, I’m networking or aiming to fill my diary with appointments. Having recently gone into the world of freelancing, I’m currently shouting about the business & looking to have more customers on board. In my personal life I make sure I get to the gym first thing to start my day off with lots of positive energy!
7. If you could live anywhere, where would this be?
After having traveled and visited so many parts of the world, I would actually choose the UK, ironically, perhaps Bath or somewhere in Hertfordshire. I tend to enjoy the cold and we’re fortunate in the UK with a plethora of work opportunities.
8. If you had could have a superpower, what would this be?
Something discreet as ideally wouldn’t want to be quarantined! Let’s go with being super lucky.
9. What motivates you to work hard?
I’ve always been motivated to impress, work well as part of a team and go above and beyond, however now I have my own events business and am entirely responsible for all output, it’s notched up a further level. I’m keenly motivated to continually offer customers top draw service, first class events & with the aim of any new customers returning to me for future events; confident & trusting in my ability to deliver. A prerequisite of being in this industry is passion - if you don’t have it, it’s very hard to stay motivated.
10. Do you have a dream holiday destination or favourite place to visit?
I have a few depending on the vibe! Top 3 - Dubai for a short break and a bit of luxury, Bali for how friendly the locals are and how beautiful the entire island is, or Jamaica, for an all-inclusive, relaxing holiday. Although I’ve yet to visit the Maldives, so this could take a top 3 spot if I ever get the chance to go!