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  • Event First Steps

Caitlin Kobrak - Founder Chats

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

A few weeks ago I answered the burning questions that YOU guys wanted to know about me and how I got started in the industry. It was really interesting to look back over the last couple of years and get to share some of my thoughts around the industry and the ways I try to keep motivated.

ICYMI we wanted to make sure you could get to know each of us a little better, so below you will find my answers :)

What is your role?

I work as a Digital Producer at a Global Brand Experience Agency called George P Johnson. I manage all the social media work we produce for our clients. The responsibilities vary for each project and client, but I typically work in the B2B technology sector.

Some of the things I do: create the strategy, content ideas, copywriting, community management, building the teams and briefing in creative etc.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied Events Management at the University of Gloucestershire after becoming interested in events when I attend a politics conference whilst studying for my a-levels. I started to write a blog for students and young people looking to study events, as there wasn’t anything around at the time (2011). But it was taking part in The Eventice competition in 2013/14 (open to all final year event students in the UK, where two graduate roles are on offer) that led me to meet GPJ and eventually gaining a freelance role at the company.

What made you want to create Event First Steps?

As I used to write an events blog for students, as there was nothing around for those starting out in the industry. I’ve always had a passion for helping those starting out, and I still think there is a gap existing where early stages in the industry lack relevant information to help people take their first steps. With Event First Steps that aim is to make sure people feel supported.

Honestly, for me it is about proving information and guidance that I wish I’d had when finishing university and entering the industry.

What is your favourite thing about events?

The people. The amazing talent and skills that exist. The breadth of what we, as an industry, can deliver.

But second would be producing something and seeing those attending experiencing it, and knowing you made that happen.

Did you go to University before starting in the industry?

I did yes. Studied Events Management at the University of Gloucestershire and came out with a 2:1 (but was utterly terrible at my dissertation).

I went to uni as I knew I wasn’t ready at 18 to go straight into work and wanted to gain some independence without the full pressure of being a working adult. I also knew I was interested in events but as I didn’t know anyone in the space, I wanted to understand a bit more about what career in events could look like.

For me it was the right decision - as my placement year was where I realised I wasn’t cut out for the operations roles (aka event manager positions). University gave me the space to explore which part of the industry was right for me.

But I should stress that there are many different ways to enter the industry - doesn’t have to be with a degree!

How did you get into your role?

To give some more context to the earlier question: whilst at university, there was a competition called The Eventice ( open to all final year event students in the UK) where you took part in a three-day job interview (just like the TV show The Apprentice) at International Confex. It was here that I came across GPJ for the first time.

I didn’t win the graduate job role but did stay in contact with the Event Profs I met and when they needed a support role for a couple of weeks admin work they asked if I would be interested. I was only meant to do a couple of weeks of work, but there was an opportunity to support the Strategy and Planning team - and due to my experience writing my blog - they thought I would be a good fit.

Long story short I have now been there for over 5 and a half years.

What is the most memorable event that you have worked on?

For me, it is Cisco Live Europe. An annual B2B technology event. In part because it was the first event I ever worked on outside the UK in 2015. But also because my role now means I lead on all the social media work for this event. Seeing the delegates enjoyment and what they gain in learning and opportunities is so rewarding. Plus I get to work with so many exceptional people from GPJ!

If you could work on any event anywhere - what would it be?

I’m a huge space fan - so ideally any event with Nasa or the European Space Agency.

Honestly would be a dream project to be part of - such amazing social content could be created Don’t care if it was a live event or a digital one - a chance to connect with experts and share the event online would be amazing!

What are the not so obvious skills you need to be a digital producer?

Sadly it is an obvious element - An interest/curiosity in digital technology.

For example, I don't know a lot about artificial intelligence, facial recognition or virtual reality but I’ve always had an interest in it and applied my learning back to the events industry. Whilst this interest doesn’t make me the best person to deliver on those types of projects. It does mean I am able to collaborate better as I understand more about what people are considering and can apply social thinking.

It is still relatively new how digital technology is being used. How social is being used in events. It is always changing. So it is about keeping up to date.

How do you networking with event professionals whilst studying?

Personally I am a huge fan of Twitter for this. #EventProfs and #EventProfsUK are really great ones to see who is active on social medial in the industry. Plus Irina at the Mice Blog does a brilliant twitter chat called #EventPlannersTalk which is a great one to engage with people on! Twitter is a great place to start.

However, if you have met an event professional or you’ve had speakers at your university- use LinkedIn. Message these people, remind them where you met and build your connections! Engage with them when they share aspects online.

As your job is content marketing, what is the most challenging part?

As I work mainly with technology clients in the B2B space - I am in no way an expert in who they are discussing or selling. So trying to find ways to market at envy and tell those more technical stories in a way that is engaging can be fun (and challenging)

How do you keep yourself motivated, especially at a time like this?

This one is quite challenging for me. I was furloughed in April and am back working now. Everyone tells you about keeping a routine but sometimes I struggle to get up and out of bed when the days and tasks are very the same.

I have found it useful to count the small wins - such as responded to texts or get dressed and do my hair! Because I definitely have ‘down’ days where I tent to just stay in the room watching Disney Plus.

There is an acronym I got from the brilliant Alexis Rockley called ABC.

  1. Get up when your alarm goes off.

  2. Make your bed

  3. Clean yourself (take a shower)

With those steps, I find when I am up and out of my room, I am willing to take on my to-do list. However small. Priya talked about having an accountability calendar and partner and I think that is also a brilliant idea.

What advice would you give to your younger self when entering the industry?

Reach out to Event Professionals. Drop them a message, ask them questions. People are willing to share advice and help BUT you need to ask for it.

Whilst people in the top-level roles are inspirational and can be great connections to have, it is often those on the same level as you/few rungs up who will be the best people for career development and changes!

But the best career advice I’ve received - which has the most impactful since progressing from an entry-level role has been; there is not always a correct or right way to do things & you don’t need to ask permission!

And that is wrap on me. Congratulations to making it to the end of this very long blog post! As you’ve made it this far I would really love to know what event/client would be your dream one to work with? Feel free to tweet @EventFirstSteps :)

You can connect with Caitlin on Twitter and Instagram.

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