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How ambitious events marketers can carve out their dream careers

by Emily Wallin

Ben Corbett has risen from marketing assistant to event director at F2F. Corbett only started his first events marketing role less than three years ago. He describes his rise to the top and how ambitious marketers can carve out their dream careers in events.


You have just been announced as events director – is that representative of the importance F2F places on marketing as core to events business?

I guess the pandemic gave me time a lot of time to do things my predecessors didn’t have time for.  I only started in marketing two and a half years ago and usually there’s always another event coming up. When everything slowed down, it gave me an opportunity to really stop and think – to look at how we were doing things and look at our digital strategy.


We’d grown the biggest database in the allergy and free from market so it was time to consider how could we use that outside of doing our face-to-face events, which will always be the center of what we do.


We started the Allergy and Free From Club, a newsletter that became a money-making asset. This became something that brands were buying into outside of the actual event.


This meant rather than marketing the events all the time, I was helping to grow new things that became genuine sources of income.


It’s not that those before me didn’t have the same ambitions, but I had the time and the space to explore those things.


How does a marketing background suit the trajectory into event director?


Marketing is such a multidisciplinary role. A lot of the time we’re talking sales, sales, sales, because that’s where the money comes from. Sales is a really pressurised job but it’s it’s very focused. In marketing, you can be writing copy one minute, managing relationships with partners the next, then you’re looking at signage on site or programming a theater or something like that. 


It’s that sort of multitasking, being able to take on lots of different things and dip into lots of areas that’s create a natural route into being an event director who takes on responsibility for lots of different things.


I think that’s definitely something that’s valued at F2F, because we are very hands on here, we do all of our marketing in house. And obviously controlling budgets as well – going from controlling the marketing budget to controlling the show budget, in theory is the same thing, but just on a bigger scale.


This can be seen in many aspects. Managing relationships with partners becomes managing relationships with suppliers, or venues. A lot of the skills that you do when you’re leading marketing are transferable into an event director role.


Do you think main role of an event director is increasingly becoming marketing the event as opposed to the person who sells it?


I think it’s both. With a show like ours that’s free to attend, the source of income is exhibitors. You could get quite sidetracked looking at the exhibitors and not thinking about the visitors because they’re not paying to come, but unless you’ve got a hall full of happy people enjoying the show, then exhibitors aren’t going to have a good event either. I think having someone that’s come from a visitor focused environment is important. 


Being in marketing you are a natural problem solver. You’re given a problem like your budget is X, you need to get this many people to your show, you’ve got these tools at your disposal, and it’s about finding creative solutions to the problems that are in front of you. I think that’s a really good skill to have going into an event director situation.


Would you recommend marketing as a career path for ambitious, young people wanting to start out in the events industry?


I think that I was really lucky because I work at a company where if you show initiative, you’re told to run with it and given a lot of freedom to explore. You’re guided but also given quite a lot of responsibility quite quickly. That’s not necessarily always going to be the case.


It depends on your personal ambition. You can be a career marketer or an event professional. I could have gone into marketing a brand and done something completely different. But if your passion is events, and you get a real buzz from them, I think the career path from event marketer to event director is a really clear one. You just need to find what your passion is.


I do really love marketing, I had a conversation with someone who was so in marketing – that was their whole thing, and they were so excited about some Google Analytics stuff. I got it, but I don’t think I had the same level of excitement about data analysis. That led me to think my passion was in the events. I enjoyed marketing but I think it was the event itself that most interested me. That’s the crossroads. I got to a point as an event marketer where I had to decide, what’s the most exciting thing for me? Is it the event? Or is it the marketing?


What would you say is the most  important part of an events marketers job?


My experience is mainly consumer events so I would say, understanding and being able to put yourself in the position of your audience is the most important thing. If you can’t put yourself into someone else’s shoes, then you’re essentially making a show for yourself instead of your audience. Be open minded to others at all times. 


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