I found myself in a bit of a surreal place last week, as I attended an events industry conference primarily to be part of an alumni event. It’s five years this summer since I graduated from university, and nine years in September since I began my degree course… I’m not sure where those years have gone!
I can’t remember the first time I attended Confex, which bills itself as the best events industry trade show in the UK, and I’m actually not sure how many times I’ve been… one trade show tends to blur into another, and there were times when I went to at least four in any calendar year! Now, Confex and another have merged (whittling things down to three shows overall), and I’m told the best one to go to now is one which was still fairly new back when I was still in industry.
Confex has shrunk considerably as organisations choose to use their marketing budgets differently – once upon a time, it was two three-day shows and was absolutely enormous. Companies pretty much threw free canapes and gifts at you (particularly cotton bags, at one point), and if you wanted to, you could get pretty tipsy without spending any money (even more so if you were in control of your organisation’s annual budget or venue sourcing…) Now, it’s down to two days, and there was a lot of stand space (at what is comparably a small venue) which had gone unsold. The show didn’t feel as vibrant and interactive as it used to, which I found strange, because the events industry isn’t exactly a sad place to be at the moment.
The experience served as a reminder that I did the right thing – events will continue to be a part of what I do, particularly if the summer goes according to plan, but it’s an industry that I can no longer see myself in full-time, or as the main thrust of what I do. The skill of organising things and making stuff happen is innate for me, I don’t think I’ll ever fully leave that side of my personality behind, but I am relieved not to be doing it 24/7 anymore. It is also nice to have transferrable skills which will be useful to the organisation that I currently work with, and ones which I may work for in the future, and that’s one of the best things about the apparent death of jobs for life: many of us will make career transitions, absorbing new skills and taking them with us through different paths in life, and allowing us to benefit different people in different ways. Maybe it’s how I’ll help change the equestrian world for the better, by helping to galvanise and adjust the culture in order that equestrians can provide a higher quality of service and become more business-minded.
I doubt I’ll find myself booking venues, numbering poster boards or setting six-foot rounds for five course dinners (with seven pieces of glassware) again, but if those things do turn out to be necessary, I’m ready. And I’m ready for all kinds of other things too…