How to Attract Talent to your Event Business

In this episode we're talking about how to attract talent to your event business. Especially while restarting the industry, it's more important than ever to find the right people for your venue, event agency, ...

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Hi Dawn.

Good morning Kevin, how are you? Or good morning for me. How are you today?

I'm fine. Thank you for joining us.

We're going to talk about how to attract talent to your event business. And I think, in these times, we just...

Yeah, we're still in the middle of the Corona crisis. A lot of talent did leave the event industry. So now, with restarting the industry, it's more important than ever to attract the right people for your business. And that's not easy. But you can share some insights in how to deal with that.

Yes, I really think worldwide we've had a real brain-drain when it comes to people leaving our industry. You know, people had to work. People had to make a living. And I think a lot of people had some introspective thoughts of: we all work really hard in our industry. We put on long hours. We are creative and everything like that. And you can either love or leave it. And a lot of people did decide to leave it. And what we're doing now is...

I'm seeing a new energy. I'm seeing, you know...

We're engaging. We're coming back in. But it looks different. Because we're dealing with a whole new generation and demands. Of what they're looking for, for bringing in the talent. So...

And, you know, it's looking different. As I said with a candidate, the other day: one of the biggest interview questions, when you interview candidates, is: where do you see yourself in five years? And five years ago we couldn't imagine discussing where we are today. I mean, we just couldn't even...

We couldn't make this stuff up. And so, what I'm finding is hiring officials are starting to look at candidates and see more flexibility in who they're hiring. For example, candidates or people who are re-entering our industry, are saying: I want to work from home. I want some flex-time. I don't want to go into the office every day. And it could be out of, you know, personal preference. It could be out of fear of COVID or a disease. It could be out of, just: I want to live in a lower cost of living and not live in the city centre, where most of the activity is.

So, one of the main things is that, I think, hiring officials, right now, have to be really flexible. With what the candidate's demands are, when they find their right candidate.

Does that also mean that you are working more made-to-measure and tailor how you work with people, depending on the candidate? Or do you still need a kind of a structure across all employees?

I think everybody needs structure. I think everybody needs structure of some sort. But not structure to the point of just control. So I think that allowing people to be more flexible, allowing people to show their creativity, allowing people...

And I think one of the success measures for our industry, when we all entered into this COVID-crisis, this pandemic crisis, was: the survivors were those who thought out of the box.


You know, it wasn't the standard business as usual. It was like: how do we survive? How do we renegotiate contracts? How do we work these meetings all over again. How do we go on a virtual platform? And it was those people who thought out of the box who survived. So if you, as a hiring official, are constantly encouraging somebody to think out of the box and go past that structure, you're in a good situation. You're going to have that person who's going to bring your company, your organization, to the next level.


What I do hear a lot in the field, I don't know how it is in the United States, but there are also many people who left the industry. They discovered a world with 9-to-5 hours. Something we don't know in this industry.



Imagine a weekend off.

Indeed. But they didn't know better before. Because they were in the event industry. And really loving their job. But won't we have a hard time to convince people to come back?

I'm a firm believer that the people who are inventing meetings, it's in their blood.

It's like if you're into hotels. It's in your blood. And it's very hard to leave it. I mean: let's face it, if you're walking along the street and you see an event...

The Olympics that are going on right now. I'm looking at the logistics of the Olympics. I look at that aspect of it and I think all of us in events and meetings look at that part of it. So if it's in your blood, I think that you'll always be in it and it'll be very hard to leave. And so, hiring officials have to find those people. And a lot of it is gut. You know, to find out who has it in their blood. Who has that logistics and that creative mixture mentality?

The other thing I'm seeing: there are new types of positions available in our industry. I mean, I just went on LinkedIn the other day and looked at some titles in our industry that are coming in. Like virtual event technologist. Digital experience architect. Participant engagement manager. Chat monitor. I mean: who would've thought our industry would have a chat monitor? Virtual music curator. Onsite safety experience. Protocol leader.

And then yesterday I was speaking with a client that I'm working on a search for and they said: do you have any meeting producers? And I'm like: we have all the meeting producers. It's just a new title. You know: it's interesting, because we're taking what we know and we're creating new titles and new experiences.

Indeed. That's correct.

You were, earlier, talking about: at hiring companies you need to have some flexibility. Be open to people also wanting to work from home. Do you think the event companies need to take it even a step further than that? To be able to attract the right talent for their companies.

Yes, I mean there is: I think we have to pay more. I think we have to hire people at a higher salary. Traditionally, middle management and lower management in our industry is fairly low-paying. I think we have to pay people more. Especially if you still want to get back into that: yes, you have to work twelve hour days. You have to work weekends. There has to be that.

I think you also have to offer things that are none-monetary. We're finding here, in the US, one of the greatest things that people are offering as an incentive to come to their companies, is tuition reimbursement. Or tuition repayment. For college. The people entering our industry now have paid a huge amount in college expenditures. And so, in their debt. And so, if companies are saying: in lieu of salary we'll help repay your debt, that is another way.

I have a company that, for the in-office people, they have an expresso-shop. And at 5 o'clock they have a keg that opens up and they can have drinks after work. And so, what they're doing is encouraging people to get to know each other and to re-engage in the office environment.

I'm trying to think about what else I've heard that people are doing. Heath benefits. Child care benefits. All those things are important in enticing people to come back to your organization.

I mean, when I entered the industry, the enticement was travel. You know, we got to go spend a weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, which is a wonderful city, but it was exciting for us. Now travel is not as enticing as it used to be. So that's the other thing. Some people say: you know, let's be flexible. With the amount of travel. The amount of time that you're spending away from your family.

Because I think what has also been proven, is that, by working at home, people have been more productive. But they've also realized how important it is to be with family.

What about the way to find the right people? Because, back in those days, it was fairly easy. You put a vacancy on LinkedIn and the day after you had the first applicants who were interested.

Oh, you're talking about modern look in the old days. I mean: in the old days we used to put an ad in the paper. Or something on air. Or you'd get resumes faxed over to you or mailed to you.

I would still say there's different ways to find the right candidate. LinkedIn is still a key-place to find people and recruit. That I find is a very key area. But the other...

And, you know, I still am a believer in the network. The network, you know, finding out: who do you know in your network who may be good for this position?

I also think that if you start recruiting out of our industry and say: we can train you to do the job, but I want to bring you in. And I need somebody who is not the typical meeting or event professional. We can train you to do the job. And you can find that by going in different industries. It might be in the hospitality industry, like hotel sales or something in that.

It might be completely out, like going to continuing care facilities or colleges and universities. You know, for people who do events or activities there, to bring somebody in that's, kind of, from the outside and in.

Yes, that's very valuable, because somebody's attitude you can't change. But the job you can learn, so it does make a lot of sense.

But I still think that your old-fashioned technique of going to LinkedIn is still one of the key areas. It's one of the easiest ways to find somebody.

Good to hear.

I've also found people just through sending out emails: who do you know? And asking people. I mean: I still believe in the networking of face-to-face networking. When it's available. And again: we have gone through eighteen months of not being able to do face-to-face. But we have been able to connect through the internet. And you can find a shining star. You can find that rookie star. Just by paying attention to a lot of the virtual events going on.


If we go sit at the other side of the table. And I want to be hired for a job in the event industry.

What do I need to do to get the attention of the recruiter? How do I need to make my resume?

Okay, this is a whole...

We need another whole hour for this. But it's amazing. The new techniques out there. But the first thing, I think the most important thing, I am telling anybody with a resume, is to constantly edit it to the job that you are applying for. 99.9% of the jobs are done...

The resumes are looked at by four technology sources before it even gets to a human being. So, it's scanned through an applicant tracking system. So, you are uploading your resume. And then this computer, or this applicant tracking system, is looking for key words. The hiring official has put in key words that are important to them, that ranks this resume against the key words. So if you have an ad and it looks like it says: looking for event manager, 3 years’ experience. Must have tradeshow experience. Must have convention experience. And in your resume you have meeting, meeting, meeting. Meeting experience. Meeting planning. The key words are not going to pick up. We all know it's the same thing. So, edit your resume to the ad, so the applicant tracking system picks up your resume. So that is one way that you can do it.

The other thing is: network heavily online. Network through LinkedIn. Become an expert. You know, post articles. Get people to notice you. Find out what your wow-factor is.

Another thing: I'm working on three searches right now. And each search, I ask for a cover note. To sell themselves. Tell me why you're so good. Beyond your resume. And I just did a stat yesterday. Only 40% wrote a note. What an opportunity you're losing on trying to have you stand apart from the others. I look at those cover notes to find out why that person thinks her so special and so different. And so: follow the directions in the ad. If it says: salary requirements. If it says: tell us why you're so great. Use that opportunity to meet the demands of the hiring official.

Dawn, thank you really much for sharing these insights and tips.

We're done already?

Yes. Time flies.

Okay. So, I hope you invite me back, I would like to talk to you more about independent contractors. Or other areas of our industry.

Sure, that's a good idea. We'll put it on the schedule and schedule something for you to have additional talks.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you. It's a pleasure being here and thank you for asking me.

You're welcome.

And you at home, thank you for watching us. I hope to see you next week.

Take care, everyone.