(No real names shall be used in these posts unless I have been given permission)
Back in January 2011 I started my 2 month part time work experience at Keystone Conference and Event Management in Woodchester (in the Gloucestershire area.) Over the course of January and February I would help with aspects of the planning for the BBC Hands on History Roadshow and assist with the running of the event over the 5 day tour.
It all started back in November 2010 when I started looking for somewhere where I could complete the 90 hours of work experience I had to do in order to pass one of my modules at university. I was unsure of where I should be applying and decided that I should ask my parents if they knew anyone who works in the Event industry, both have significant contacts in the media industry due to their jobs. I was lucky as my dad got the email address for Jenny who owns and runs Keystone and who I contacted to see if she would be able to offer me any work experience. It was here that I learnt Events have on and off seasons, where by depending on what sort of events you plan, certain times of the year can be either really busy or really quiet. For Keystone’s work the Christmas period was quiet, and it wasn’t until the end of December that I heard about an opportunity to help at a BBC event in February. I spend a majority of the Christmas break really excited and nervous about what I would be doing, even more so when it was arranged I would help with the planning of the event for a few days in January in between University classes.
So when I went back to Cheltenham in January I also started my 6 days working in the Keystone office, it was an amazing opportunity and taught me a great amount but at the same time it was also one of the most nerve-racking things I have ever done.
The first job I was given to do while in the office was to find and book the hotels for the 5 day tour. Starting in Cardiff on the 21st, Milton Keynes on the 22nd, Swindon on the 23rd, Derby on the 24th and lastly Newcastle Gateshead on the 25th. Now I had never booked a hotel on my own before, in fact all that is left to my mum when we go on holiday, but this was not a normal hotel booking, no this was a business booking for 6+ people on a company credit card. The hotels had to be near the venues, near the main roads and near the train station, the fact I cannot drive and have never been to more than half of the locations meant this was a lot harder than it sounds. Did you know you have to send a fax with the information to the hotels when booking on a company credit card and when it is a business stay? Nope, neither did I! I did this over a couple of days along with other work as details had to be changed and I was so scared things were going to go wrong that I just carried on ringing them to double and triple check details, I have a sneaky suspicion the hotels were starting to get annoyed with me. Luckily, or due to the fact I did everything right, nothing went wrong when we were on the tour in regards to the Hotels.
The thing I found the most nerve-racking about being in the office was answering and using the phone, a simple task that I have been doing for years but none the less something that just freaked me out. I think it was knowing what to say that scared me as I have the tendency to ramble when I am nervous and I wanted to come across as professional.
I was lucky to be able to go on and see the Queens Arcade Shopping centre in Cardiff, the venue for the first date of the Roadshow, while I was working in the office. The point of the trip was to see the space we would be stationed in, take some measurements, find our two satellite station spots and ask any questions about getting all the equipment into the shopping centre. It was an interesting experience in which I got my hand cut by the tape measure, be careful when someone lets go of the other side and it comes racing back to you, it was a painful lesson to learn. I found it interesting to hear the questions that were asked, and what information the event organiser needs, such as the plan in place in case of any emergencies.
One of my favourite jobs, and the one I take most pride in, was finding the volunteers for the 5 locations. I suggested we look for university students who are doing Event Management courses as it is hard to find work experience in events and getting to work at the BBC Hands on History Roadshow would be a fantastic opportunity. I was really happy when Jenny agreed that would be a good idea. So for 2 days I had to search for local universities that were in or around each of the locations; Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Swindon, Derby and Newcastle. Once I had found the Universities I wrote the volunteer brief, a piece of paper that had to have a lot of information in it without having too much information, I was quite shocked to be asked to do that considering I had never done something like that before. It turned out rather well and I emailed myself a copy so that I could show my parents, yes I still get excited when I do well in something! I then emailed the course leaders of each University and asked if they would pass on the information about looking for volunteers to all their students and then waited patiently for people to contact us. This wasn’t a simple job, and over the course of the actual running of the event I learnt a great deal of things in relation to volunteers, mainly through problems that occurred. I feel that this part of the planning stage was the most valuable and taught me the most as it is something I will have to do in the future.
This office experience at Keystone taught me a great deal about what is involved with the planning of an event and how many different aspects you have to deal with, from suppliers to the clients as well as the venues and the health and safely aspects you have to take into account.