Meet the planner: Alexandra Cowie, Workshop Events

From Toni Collette's wedding to firework show mishaps, this event producer has had some memorable career moments.

After completing a visual communication degree, Alexandra Cowie swiftly realised sitting at a desk all day wasn’t for her –  a career in events was more her style. 

Now senior event producer at Workshop Events, Cowie has produced some incredible events and had her fair share of learning moments along the way.

Get to know Alexandra Cowie our Meet the Planner Q&A below:

When did you start in the events industry?

After completing a Visual Communication Design degree at UTS I knew I didn’t want to sit at a desk doing graphics all day. After a short stint in the film industry, my friend’s sister introduced me to Workshop Events (formally James Gordon Workshop) and the rest is history.

What is the most memorable event you’ve been part of?

1: Toni Collette’s bohemian South Coast wedding. From hunting for twigs, pine cones and natural materials to make organic tablecentres to liaising with all the VIP guests in relation to accommodation and transfers.

2: A three-day conference in Singapore including a welcome event in the historic Raffles Hotel and a post awards night party by the pool at Marina Bay Sands.

Have you had any major event disasters? 

1: Fireworks on a barge at Woolloomooloo for a media personality’s 70th birthday came to a halt when a boat illegally cruised into the exclusion zone. I was in radio contact with the barge and fortunately the Howards crew were fast acting and after a minute or so managed to reconnect the cable and the show finished in time with the music track.

2: A coach didn’t turn up for an afterparty transfer because they had the date wrong in their bookings and had switched their afterhours number off. The problem I was left with was 150 pax standing on the footpath at midnight on a Friday in December. I hailed the nearest coach I could find and negotiated a cash deal for the driver to come back after dropping another corporate group into the city. Within 30 minutes my clients were happily partying at their next venue.

If you could change one thing about the events industry, what would it be?

Clients being honest about what budget they have. As a designer, it’s best to work to budget. If too much is stripped out of an original concept to reduce costs, the essence of the event can be lost.

Private 80th birthday produced by Alexandra Cowie
Private 80th birthday celebration – Cuban dining room marquee constructed over existing pergola

What event trends are you loving or hating right now?

I’m not sure who ever thought hanging donuts on a wall was appealing.

I’m pleased that most businesses are becoming more aware of waste – collecting name badges for reuse, considering whether giveaways are necessary and supporting Ozharvest.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone entering the field?

Volunteer – take any opportunity to make contacts and gain experience by working on charity and community events.

Get yourself out there, you never know who you will meet. I once got offered an art department job on the Matrix films after demonstrating my work ethic when I volunteered on a couple of TV commercials.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Not to procrastinate – move forward, make decisions. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes but they’ll help steer a successful result.

Corporate End of Year event produced by Alexandra Cowie
Corporate End of Year Event – “It’ll be white on the night” theme, Campbell’s Stores

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt during your career?

To be organised and plan ahead but not to be anxious and lose sleep about what might happen.

Hiccups are often due to human error that you can’t predict. Staying calm and problem solving is the key to overcoming any hurdles.

What are 3 things you can’t live without during an event?

  1. My emergency kit – tape, cleaning product, candle lighter, USB and a bundle of other random bits and pieces.
  2. A supplier contact list that includes after hours numbers. Not many businesses answer their landline at 2am!
  3. The bread and butter – when you don’t have time for a crew meal, a fresh bread roll with real butter is heaven!
  4. SMART PHONE… clearly.

What is your dream event destination?

Norway for a midwinter festival to view the northern lights or for something warmer, a private dinner in the underwater restaurant in the Maldives.

Read more of our Meet the Planner series here

Meet the planner: Alexandra Cowie

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