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Understanding the bigger picture

by Nicola Macdonald

Jessica Metcalfe, operations manager at i2i Events Group and EN30/30 member on the importance of working beyond the boundaries of your job title.

It’s fair to say ops is not just about delivering shell scheme, carpet and registration desks anymore. Supercharged customer service, innovative onsite experiences and networking facilitated by state-of-the-art technology are just some of the new(ish) feathers to our hats.

The last five years at i2i Events Group have provided me with a multi-faceted learning environment. This has led to more involvement in different areas of the business than I originally expected; higher levels of collaboration have become the norm meaning the boundaries of my role have been pushed, and in a good way.

I’m a firm believer in proactively finding new projects and initiatives to get involved in – even if they are slightly outside your remit and/or comfort zone – jump into the unknown.

To be challenged in this way offers more opportunities to learn and also increases your levels of confidence. You’ll be surprised at how much you can take on and tackle whatever is thrown at you. This also puts you in a more powerful position by being a major team player and integral to the events you work on.

From three years as operations coordinator on Pure London/CWIEME Berlin to the launch of i2i Assist (the customer service team that supports 10,000 exhibitors across the business), I’ve taken every opportunity that has come my way, even if it has meant a sideways step here and there. This has enriched my skills and experiences and given me a wider understanding of operations/customer service/suppliers and the industry in general.

Other ongoing projects during this time included: a year-long project offering a dedicated focus on improving contractor delivery to our customers; a Mystery Shopper venture where the analysis helped prioritise changes within our business; managing onsite sponsorship delivery at Bett and various shadowing projects with other i2i operations teams, onsite staff (floor managers etc.) and suppliers.

In March I went back to my roots and became operations manager on Money20/20 Europe – the company’s biggest and most exciting launch. As the team has an entrepreneurial spirit, there is an ‘all hands on deck’ approach which has led to my involvement in marketing campaigns, comms plans and CRM & technology integration.

There are so many roles, projects and tasks that are relevant to operations that don’t necessarily fall into our day-to-day roles. Proactively seeking out collaboration with internal teams as well as other parts of the industry is a healthy thing – if we ‘change it up’ we remain agile and able to adapt to various situations and perspectives. It means that still with our ops ‘hat’ firmly on, we can maintain an understanding of the bigger picture.

Having said that, of course it’s important to make sure you don’t become a jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

It’s crucial to the success of an event for operations teams to fully understand the nature of the beast and the attention to detail that’s involved in top-notch operational delivery.

What I’m shouting about is the benefit of increasing the scope of experience relating to operations, and this is of course relevant to all departments; it’s just as important for sales and marketing to understand the logistical delivery of an event. It’s the responsibility of all teams to share best practices, ideas and insights.

Surely this collaborative and close working relationship must make for a better end result and all round experience for our customers. The more we can work together, the easier it becomes to reach the shared objective of making sure face-to-face networking remains a crucial part of doing business.

Ultimately, having a more holistic understanding of the industry means we can expect more event managers from a non-sales background in the future.

Obviously an event must be able to generate revenue but there also has to be importance placed on creating an invaluable experience for event stakeholders and I think candidates with a well-rounded operational background are well placed to achieve this.

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