INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN IN THE EVENTS INDUSTRY PART 14: Michelle Rees, Head of Events EMEA at GLG and Co-founder of Event Profs Live
It takes a lot of drive and determination to work hard at what you do as your ‘day job’ but to also create opportunities to support and motivate others. This is something Michelle Rees does so well, working in the world of corporate events and also running Eventprofs Live; a networking group and community for corporate event managers. She’s a huge advocate for supporting others in the industry and though I’ve not yet met her in person, I feel like I know her so well after connecting on social and following her, and Eventprofslive’s journey.
I wanted to feature Michelle on my blog as someone who has already inspired so many by co-founding her networking community, supporting a team of event professionals and having a great presence in the social world of events, too! I’m excited to share Michelle’s story, and am sure you’ll find it inspiring, too!
Can you tell me how you found your way into the events industry?
Mine is an odd tale, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Since I was young, I had always wanted to be a lawyer, however found myself as a flight attendant for both Virgin and Emirates airlines so, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Criminology (via distance education) and took my books all over the world. I am talking studying in libraries everywhere from New York to Casablanca and everywhere in between. When I was in my final year, I moved home from Dubai, got a job in a law firm whilst I was studying and found I did NOT want to be a lawyer. I thus started my career as a legal PA and whilst working for one firm and always on a quest to study, I completed a course in events and wedding planning as I took a shine to events and often volunteered in my free time to support the team, giving out badges etc. After a while a role came up full time as an events coordinator, I was offered it and the rest is history. That was around 12 years ago and I have never looked back. It is my dream career.
Despite being a female-dominated industry, fewer women are taking senior and boardroom positions- where do you think we stand today with the ‘glass ceiling’ for women in the world of events?
I will be honest here, I have never seen or experienced a barrier when trying to succeed and advance through my career. I admit when you get to a certain level it is very hard to take that next step up because there aren’t a lot of senior leadership roles but this is because with a team of seven event managers or so you only need one head of events and it is always going to be the case.
The people I have witnessed not being able to take that next step up is because they are not asking for it. If you think wholeheartedly that you deserve a promotion and you’re not asking for it then more fool you and it’s time to move on. If we want to lead and inspire by taking senior leadership positions, then how can our teams want to follow us if we have no belief in ourselves and don’t see us asking for what we think we deserve?! Does that sound harsh… I tend to say what I think.
I think that if you work hard you will succeed, push yourself, don’t get comfortable and if you are not where you think you should be maybe looking to an (honest) mentor for their guidance that will help you get where you want to be will be super valuable.
What’s the motivation behind your events work and especially what you’ve created with ‘Eventprofslive’?
In my role as Head of Events, my motivation is my team. I love seeing them grow and develop their different skillsets in events and in my role as a leader I have learnt from all those years of being managed what I appreciated and what I didn’t. There is nothing better than seeing how proud someone in your team is when they have just finished a bloody amazing event. They are beaming and I am too and this is one of my main motivations to do what I do. As Head of Events, you take a step back from the day to day event management but, I have a big stake in what my team do and I love it!
I love what Kate and I have achieved with Eventprofslive. We have taken a small membership organisation of 4 to around 100 and is growing every day. I recently just hosted a fam in Cambridge where our group did not stop talking the entire time. We weren’t just talking about events; we were talking about life and love and everything in between. I have genuine love and admiration for all of our members, they are all super motivated, dedicated and inspiring women (and one man) and I feel like a proud mother every time we go home form one of our events. The group is a genuine enhancement to my life, and I don’t know what I ever did without them early in my career.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Books, books and more books. I am a bit odd that I don’t look to anyone one person for my inspiration. I see what people do and I think “go them” but I draw my inspiration from myself. Wanting to create a career and life for myself that I love is my inspiration to everything I do personally. I love to inspire people, I love to inspire my team with my outlook on the events profession and my attitude is very much “you can do anything” and you really can and I hope I inspire people to think the same.
3 top tips for aspiring event professionals?
Realise events are not just festivals and weddings and you need to graft. You don’t just get to do the fluffy stuff, you also need to do the boring, mundane admin heavy roles which may seem boring BUT they are building on a particular skillset that is imperative to succeed in their field. As you advance, remember one day you will be leading your team and it is paramount to know every aspect of the events process from A to Z.
Volunteer your free time. I always say this to anyone trying to get into events. Any free time you have ask to volunteer with an agency or corporate side to get experience. After 12 years in the industry, I still have my heart set on gaining experience managing the BAFTAS (it’s my thing) and I have tried emailing to see if I can. Note if you are reading this please let me help… I will give you all of my weekends just for the experience haha
Just be yourself and do a great job.
Don’t copy anyone, be authentic, be you and go for it. I get that sometimes you need to shift focus but find what you want to do and then do everything you can to be great at it.
I absolutely recommend checking out Eventprofslive if like me, you’re in the world of corporate events and looking for a fantastic and supportive community to be a part of. Thank you so much, Michelle for sharing your thoughts and for all you do to support fellow event professionals!