As senior event producer at Workshop Events, Kathy Ferris has produced an array of memorable events and gained loads of industry wisdom along the way.
Here, she shares some of her biggest learning moments, best advice and the things she can’t live without at an event.
How did you get started in the events industry?
I was first exposed to events as an account director working in a boutique advertising agency, when one of our clients asked us to produce their sales and marketing conference. It was a completely different direction for the agency, one which we embraced as part of a new offering (mind you, this was many years before any event courses were on offer and the introduction of the fax machine was something that revolutionised our workflow!). It was during this time I entertained the thought of moving into the event production space.
What is the most memorable event you’ve been part of?
Two spring to mind. Firstly the Passion of the Pilbara (POP) Festival, which included two days of inclusive and immersive experiences for a population of 750 indigenous and non-indigenous community members in the remote Pilbara town of Onslow. To experience how the town came together and embraced the concepts was quite extraordinary. They weren’t just spectators – they owned the festival and with that ownership came a real vested interest in its success.
Secondly, the Singapore Airlines A380 launch. When Singapore Airlines were announced as being ‘first to fly’ the largest passenger aircraft in the world commercially, it stood to reason that the launch event in Sydney was going to be a highly sought-after gig. Standing on the tarmac and watching this behemoth of an aircraft being towed towards the event marquee was a feeling I’ll never forget.
Have you had any major event disasters?
Obviously the major ‘disaster’ is the current situation unfolding as I write this and the catastrophic effects on our industry. I am for the better part a positive person and in this instance take comfort in the knowledge that this will end and there will be a recovery. How long this might take and what the event landscape will look like ‘post-virus’ is unknown. In the meantime, be kind to one another.
If you could change one thing about the events industry, what would it be?
My main bug-bear is with the event tendering system. Small boutique agencies chew up lots of resources in both people hours and cost in preparing tenders, taking us away from the day-to-day servicing of other clients. There should be some remuneration in place to compensate tendering agencies.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
‘Progress over perfection’ – I have this written on a Post-it note and stuck on my computer.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during your career?
Know and understand your event inside-out before you arrive on site. That way, if something does go slightly pear-shaped, you’ll be in a much better position to find ways of mitigating any potential negative impacts. It’s not about what goes wrong, it’s all about the recovery.
What are the things you can’t live without during an event?
A large lanyard pouch to hold lip balm, phone, pen and mints, plus a well stocked stationery kit.
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