INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY Part 5: Laura Capell-Abra, No More Ifs Or Buts

So far in this blog series I’ve enjoyed talking to and showcasing the talents of some incredible event professionals.  From running festivals to creating parties for a living; I’ve shared stories of ladies doing great things in our industry because I truly believe “we rise by lifting others” and it’s important to talk about who inspires you.

This week I’ve had the pleasure of hearing from Laura Capell-Abra.  I attended one of Laura’s talks at this year’s Conference and Hospitality Show in Leeds, all about how success doesn’t have to be stressful, and was instantly inspired.  Laura talked us through steps to look after ourselves and avoid burnout whilst working in the events industry, and the talk was a turning point for me to put self-care higher on my priority list and really explore the importance of wellness in our industry.

Laura’s company ‘No More Ifs Or Buts’ is built on that same belief, that success doesn’t need to be stressful, and we can all grow and succeed without suffering from burnout.  After working in the Events and Marketing Industry and seeing how personal growth was often pushed to one side due to the day-to-day demands of running or working in an Events business, Laura set up her company to help others.

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Can you tell me how you found your way into the events industry, and then your coaching business?

Well this feels like a long story!

Whilst I was at uni I worked full-time at Toyota’s head office doing an ‘In-Company’ degree.  I was managing their website and one day the PR team asked me to find some Prius fans (a Toyota hybrid car) on-line in the Yahoo groups (this was a time before social media in it’s current form existed!) and so I trawled these groups and invited these existing Prius fans to a press launch for the new version of the Prius.  Seeing their faces so excited seeing this car made me fall in love with the power of live events.  They were passionate on-line but the enthusiasm they shared and their smiles made me know that I wanted to make people smile all the time.

When I left Toyota, I joined one of the agencies that I had been working with, I eventually moved into the events team and started my events career doing car roadshows in shopping centres.  It then evolved from there.

10 Years later I found myself as Managing Director of an events agency called Sledge and being asked to write the For Dummies guide to Event Management.  This made me realise I had a bit of a knack of breaking things down into smaller, easy to understand chunks.  I started a blog called nomoreifsorbuts.com as a bit of a hobby as I enjoyed writing and it originally started off as a bit of a guide to fun things to do in London – in essence a bit of a diary about interesting pop-up events that I had visited.

A couple of years later, after spending a lot of time focusing on making my team as good as I could I realised that it was that part of my job that I loved the most – helping people grow and helping them identify their strengths.  Coaching was getting some traction in the US but we didn’t have a huge amount of career coaches in the UK.  I also became aware that the current training and development options didn’t work well enough for this industry.  I therefore set myself a mission of creating a company that focused on coaching and development for the events industry.  I trained as a coach and set up No More Ifs Or Buts as a business.  I developed the approach that I had been using in my previous roles into a methodology (called Don’t Just Be) that could be used for people of all ages and all different stages in their career.

It’s then been non-stop!  Honing my skills as a coach working with apprentices up to those contemplating retirement. Working with business owners who want someone to bounce ideas off and running bitesize soft skills sessions means that I get to do all the fun stuff that I was doing when I was running the agency and I get to help far more people.

Despite being a female-dominated industry, there are fewer women taking senior and boardroom positions- where do you think we stand today with the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in the world of events?

I find this a hard question to answer.  In my personal experience, I know I have reached the top level of the agency I was working for and every business I have worked in, the senior management team have always been very supportive of my career development.  Many of those senior management teams were full of men however I think there has to be an acceptance of a transition period where men are still in the majority of senior positions as a lot of men set up these businesses 15 – 20 years ago.  Far more women are now setting up their own businesses and are reaching those senior positions in companies so we are definitely seeing a tip in the split.  I don’t think there is a glass ceiling in this industry, it is one of the things that I think is great about this industry.

What’s the motivation behind No more ifs or buts?

Getting myself and my clients to stop making excuses and to try to identify and then achieve what it is that will make them happy.  Whatever level we are, there is always something we can do to improve our time management, make us more assertive, better at dealing with different personality types, maintaining a balanced approach to our life etc and we tend not to spend the time reflecting as we are too busy rushing from one thing to another.  Coaching gives people the space to really think about themselves, their goals and their development plans without having the biases of a work colleague or a loved one influencing opinions.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I tend not to try and find inspiration as I tend to find that’s when it eludes me.  What I do is constantly seek out new facts, experiences, points of view and it helps me to become more open-minded and more creative.  Every morning I read and watch a TED talk, which means that every morning I know that bit more than I did yesterday and some of the talks I watch are super inspirational and others are simply an interesting take on something I’ve never even contemplated before.

3 top tips for aspiring event professionals?

  1. Build relationships – get to know as many people as you can in the industry, but don’t just meet them once, get to know them, try to understand their strengths and how you can help them. I’m a believer of what goes around comes around, if you help someone else, they will in turn help you.
  2. Learn self-care – when entering such a fast paced and exciting industry, you want to throw yourself in, experience everything, help everyone and be part of as much as you can. Definitely do that.  But also make sure you look after yourself and know what your limits are, push them when you can but know when you need a break and learn to reflect.
  3. Celebrate the wins – I talk to my clients a lot about Champagne moments, celebrating the successes. Doesn’t have to be a big win, it doesn’t have to be champagne but taking time to appreciate when something has gone well.  The times things go wrong will stick in your head without you trying so try and get some of those successes to stick in your head too.

At whichever stage you are in in your career, I really recommend checking out what Laura has created with No More Ifs Or Buts.  Whether you’re looking for career coaching or just helpful hints on how to live a less stressful, more successful life she has a fantastic website and blog with lots of information and advice.

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