Priya Narain - Founder Chats
Updated: Jun 3, 2020
You know about Event First Steps and what we do but we thought it would be great if you got to know us as individuals better too. So, at the beginning of May, I took over the Event First Steps Instagram account and hosted an ‘ask me anything’ day. I thought it would be good to share and elaborate on some of my answers here.
I have been in the events industry for just over five years having transitioned from a career in the travel world. At the time of writing this, I am currently on furlough from my role as Sales Manager for events catering company Boulevard Events, having previously worked for a venue and a marquee/furniture supplier.
To affirm my career change I studied for a CIM accredited Events Management diploma with The Event Academy which was an evening part-time course over the duration of three months.
In 2017 I applied and was successful in getting a place on the Fast Forward 15 mentorship programme which is a career progression initiative aiming to inspire, encourage and empower women in the events and hospitality industries.
I am an active member of ILEA UK which is the UK chapter of the internationally known industry association, and I currently sit on their board as part of the membership committee.
What is it that made you want to start working in events?
After over nine years in the travel industry, I was unfortunately made redundant following the company’s mass restructuring and cost-saving efforts. This afforded me some time to think about my next steps and what I wanted to do next, do I stay in travel or do I try something new?
I’ve always enjoyed events (especially from within my own social circle) and was encouraged to look into this further, so I undertook some volunteering opportunities with charities to help out on some of their events, ultimately leading me to study for an Events Management diploma.
I believe that my redundancy was essentially a blessing in disguise and starting a new career in events is a decision I have not regretted since!
If you could give one piece of career advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Do not measure or compare your level of success against anyone else’s. Not only is this a waste of your precious time and energy, but everyone is on their own path and you may be heading in different directions, so in the end, the comparison becomes completely irrelevant and pointless. Use this time instead to concentrate on yourself and your own goals.
I am a firm believer that you are never too old to set new goals, if something doesn’t quite work out how you wanted it to or doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to try again in a different way, or even to try something completely new altogether. There are many different paths you can take in the events industry and it took me three different roles to figure out what I wanted to do and find a role I finally enjoy.
The best advice I was given since being in the events industry was from a seasoned event professional who told me that it was important to create my own personal brand so that I am differentiated as an individual and not just for the company I work for. I wanted to share this nugget here as I feel it is imperative to understand that your own personal brand can create many opportunities for you and can determine how you are perceived in the industry.
Are you furloughed or working? And how are you finding either situation in the current climate?
I am currently on furlough which I find quite unsettling with the uncertainty of it all. However, I am keeping myself busy with an accountability calendar to keep myself occupied and my spirits up.
A few months ago, like many of us, I did not know what furlough actually means or what it entails. I understand that everyone has their own circumstances to deal with, but I take some comfort in knowing that many of us are in a similar situation and we are in this together.
What keeps you motivated?
During these times it can be easy to switch off and become very unproductive, and I didn’t want to fall into this habit, especially with the uncertainty of how long this will all last (just to note that it is absolutely ok if this suits you better). My flatmate and I have created accountability calendars of the things we would like to do/learn each day/week. Having an accountability partner has really helped me stay focussed and motivated, as we keep each other updated on what we have been doing each day.
I have also found that staying away from negative press and social media posts have been hugely beneficial to my general well-being as all the negativity can be quite exhausting.
I am grateful for amazing friends and family as calls with them have helped me keep sane and add a sense of normality to everything. I have taken part in numerous pub quizzes, cook-along sessions, general catch up chat, and of course, I have still found time to binge watch some great Netflix shows!
What has been your most memorable event that you’ve been involved with and why?
My first role in the industry was with a venue. We held a Christmas party event for a client who wanted to explore the journey through time through movies. As a venue team, we had to deliver the concept and styling of the event where each room was themed to match films from a different era. It was so exciting to see how everything came together, especially as this was my first experience of a full-blown event from start to finish, communicating with the client, dealing with external suppliers and coordinating the event on the day itself. However, it is most memorable because it helped me realise that I didn’t want to do the operational side of events as my day-to-day role. This led me to the conclusion that my ideal role would be in sales and gave me that goal to work towards.
What is the one thing you love about this industry?
There are so many things that I love but one thing that stands out is that no two days are ever the same. As the industry moves forward you adapt with it which creates an exciting and interesting position to be in. During these times it has been great to see how some companies have been able to adapt their offering to still be able to provide a service to their clients and their communities.
I can’t answer this question without mentioning the fantastic people I have met along the way. This industry has allowed me to meet some truly amazing, creative and passionate people, and I am truly appreciative that I can call some of these people my close friends.