For Lyndsay Munholland, the best aspect of event planning is finally getting to execute an event that she has “poured her heart and soul” into for months and sometimes years.
“There’s nothing like seeing and hearing reactions from attendees, especially about little details that are often overlooked. Most people won’t notice that the striped linens are all laid on the tables at a perfect 45 degree angle or that you splurged and went with the safety snap-away lanyards. But they will notice how much they are enjoying the event,” she says.
Munholland has been a professional in event planning for more than 10 years. As event strategist and team lead at Managing Matters in Toronto, Munholland has managed all levels of professional engagement from meetings to conferences, road shows, tradeshows, fundraisers and social events for clients around the world.
Of course, since the pandemic started, event planning has looked very different with many events cancelled or postponed. Like many other businesses, the events industry had to adapt and cope with the new normal.
“Our team has worked hard to help our clients pivot to virtual events where it made sense. I think most of us can relate to experiencing “zoom fatigue” and it’s a reality for a lot of our clients as well,” says Munholland. “There’s a lack of enthusiasm for virtual events so we’ve had to adapt to find new ways to engage audiences. It’s been encouraging to hear and read feedback from our event attendees expressing how much they enjoyed their experience in spite of the virtual format. I’m so proud of how flexible our team has been and what they’ve been able to achieve as a result.”
Her top advice tips for those wanting to enter the industry are:
- Get your hands dirty. There are entire classes of event planners graduating each year so the competition is steep when you’re starting out. Employers want to know that you’re not afraid of hard work and you’ve got some practical experience. Staffing agencies offer great exposure to catering, experiential marketing, registration and other event work that can help set you apart.
- Set your boundaries early. In this post pandemic world, working from home is the new norm; work/life lines are blurred and it’s easy to stay connected to work 24/7 but by setting boundaries and finding time to disconnect every day you’ll avoid burnout and be a better planner in the long run.
- Be flexible, willing to adapt and coachable. If there’s anything the pandemic has taught event planners it’s that if we aren’t willing to change and adapt then we’ll be left behind. We can’t wait until we have things figured out, which is a bit counter-intuitive for planners, instead have to be willing to learn as we go and forge ahead in spite of circumstances.
How did you get started in event planning
I started out planning meetings as an administrator at the head office of a large Canadian retailer. That job evolved over time and I was eventually promoted to an event planning position. The rest is history.
What types of training/education has been helpful for you?
When I was starting out I couldn’t afford memberships to industry associations or conferences and I suffered from imposter syndrome because I had no formal training in events. I was fortunate to meet some great people in the industry who become mentors and I found free resources online to educate myself. These days when asked I encourage new planners to check out EventManagerBlog.com which frequently offers free webinar registration. Signing up for industry newsletters is another great way to stay current on what’s happening in the industry.
What are some of your biggest achievements?
I once had to plan a transportation movement for 3,000 people between two downtown venues with return transfers to 17 hotels using 27 motor coaches. It took months of planning, city parking permits, paid duty police officers and a crew of 40 staff. To complicate things further the cancelled Drake concert from three weeks prior was rebooked for the same night as our event with traffic into the city starting at the same time as our transfers. I’m still not entirely sure how we managed to pull it off but we did!
At Managing Matters, we produce hundreds of events every year, and I’m proud of our events team, as well as the extended financial and account team to make it all happen. In a time when organizations are looking for expertise in virtual, hybrid and return-to-live events, it’s rewarding to know we are making a significant impact.