Kelsey Padjen, Guardian Masterclasses Operations Manager, explains how she found her feet in the world of events and her role at the global media brand
How did you get into the world of events and what was the first big event you were responsible for?
While studying at university, I started working in events by volunteering at Melbourne Fashion Week, and I got my first events role in my hometown of Canberra, Australia, running local fashion events and personal development workshops.
The biggest event I’ve been responsible for was when I was working at an agency in Toronto, managing TD Bank’s title sponsorship of the properties in their diversity portfolio – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver Pride Festivals, Festival of South Asia and the IRIE Music Festival. These were multi-site, national events, with thousands of attendees. It was an exciting project, and it taught me a lot about working with high profile clients, suppliers and managing multiple teams.
How many events a year do you organise at The Guardian and which is the most challenging?
I organise 50 events per month for Guardian Masterclasses and it works out to approximately 400 per year. They range from three-hour evening events to full-day, 300 capacity multi-speaker events, weekend workshops for smaller groups, and even six and nine-month long courses in creative writing.
With Masterclasses, each event is unique, with a different set of requirements for each one: our speakers are at the top of their field, and our attendees have specific expectations about what they will gain from every course.
Are all events organised in-house at The Guardian ?
The majority of our events are held in-house at the Guardian offices but occasionally we do need to use third party venues due to our availability or requirements. For our 150-300 capacity events we use the fantastic auditoriums at 1 Wimpole Street; it’s a great central London location. We also use smaller, local venues in the Kings Cross area.
It’s important that the venues we partner with reflect the professionalism and welcoming nature of Masterclasses, and that they are easy to work with, flexible, and, of course, fit within the budget!
Do you have any advice on dealing with sponsors?
Make sure the sponsors know how their agreement with you will help their business. There’s no such thing as a free lunch – if someone is agreeing to provide you with a service or product for an event, make sure they know how many people they will be reaching who could be a potential new customer for them, what advertising opportunities they might have, where and when will they be mentioned, and if there is an opportunity to grow together in future events. Most importantly, show them what you are excited about with your event.
What advice would you give somebody who wants to break into the industry?
Perseverance is key, and hands-on experience is vital. A lot of people get frustrated when they’re not able to find a position due to lack of experience, especially if they’re not in the financial position to do an internship.
Get involved in social committees at work or school, organise dinner parties and other social gatherings, and treat it like you would a major event for a company or agency.
Get better at negotiating! If you can take a course on it, take it, and practice it. The more you do it, the more confident you become, and it can make the difference when working with small budget events.
Also, know your worth. If you are working for yourself, make sure you’re aware of how much time you are spending on a project and charge accordingly. It’s always disappointing to see people who give time away for free – if you set that as a precedent from the start, it’s hard to charge later.
Finally – working in events is not a 9-5, Monday to Friday job. But it’s an amazing industry. It’s a great feeling creating something from scratch, and see people enjoy it. And then you get to do it all over again!
The Guardian Masterclass How to be an events manager will take place on 23 November at The Guardian in London.
For more details email: