Interview with Tom Simmonds AKA The Event Fixer

Tom Simmonds, AKA @TheEventFixer, is an event planner based just outside of London. He coordinates a variety of events from weddings and birthdays to corporate and networking events with a range of experience and expertise in the industry to offer. ‘The Event Fixers’ offer a range of services to ensure the best possible outcome to the event; whether it’s execution or management. Tom is also a Freeman and Court Member of The Guild of Entrepreneurs who aim to support the Lord Mayor, promote excellence, foster fellowship and partake in charitable works.

How did you get into your current job role as an Event Manager?

To give you a bit of history about myself, I went to UWE where I studied a Property degree. I started putting on my own club nights, mainly working with drum and bass artists and DJs. I had no money to spend on marketing materials so relied heavily on word-of-mouth and getting the DJs to sell tickets on the back of it being their first proper gig. After that, I actually had a job at the Olympics where I managed a team of more than 30 people working heavily in logistics and transport.

I went on to work at various events companies before deciding to go it alone. I found that the key was to surround myself with the right people and everything else will fall into place. Whilst I haven’t ended up in Property, I know that the life and event experience I gained at university has been incredibly beneficial to my career now.

What would a typical day in your job role be?

A day working in the events industry can vary massively; you really do live in a crazy world! I would actually say that there is no real typical day working in events. Three weeks could be spent travelling around the country setting up and managing events and the following weeks could be spent in client meeting – planning and liaising with suppliers. However, I am constantly problem solving and upholding communications as well as sorting logistics and vital details as they can be misinterpreted.

How important is the role of marketing in planning events?

I think within events there is a massive crossover between the marketing and the planning of events. Simply, if you don’t use marketing to attract people then it won’t be a success. Too many people rely on the event itself rather than a well thought out marketing plan to draw people in. Different events will have different marketing needs and can be done by either the event planner or the client. It is always very important to know your audience and why the event is happening in the first place, as it is to easy to get lost in spending money in the wrong areas. With the ‘Event Fixers’ we often find ourselves working hard on the event side of the things thus freeing the client up to market the event. This would be very different to say, putting on our own events where we would be immersed in all aspects of the marketing process as well.

What tools do you use to market an event?

Nowadays, the marketing is done through major social networking channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. There are pages, sites and even people who have a large following to direct campaigns at specific demographics.

There’s also ‘Contra Deals’ whereby you would partner with another business for a mutual benefit, e.g. “we’ll use your venue to hold the event and bring down potential customers if you can put on a complimentary drinks reception”.

What key skills are needed to plan an event?

In events, I believe there are two main types of people – ‘planners’ and ‘executors’. A lot of people who are good at the planning stages of events may not necessarily be as good at running the event and vice a versa. It is important to surround yourself with the right team who have a range of skills that would include: eye for detail, negotiating, managing, problem solving, practical and logical thinking etc.

How do you remain up-to-date with the latest news and trends in the event industry?

Following some key bloggers is one of the best ways, as they often post their mini blogs on social media which will be constantly popping up on my feed. There are of course many events to attend that have all the latest in event tech, but I find the best way is to get out there and speak to the people who are actually ‘doing’. The problem with the events industry is that it is so vast and easily accessible,if you can get ahead of the game it will have some serious benefits for you.

What is your favorite thing about planning an event?

I think it’s feeling of when an event is completely up and running and the client is happy! People often underestimate the behind-the-scenes, back and forth work that goes into creating the finished result and so seeing everything from the concept to creation having gone above and beyond to make it possible, is such a great feeling!

What elements should be considered before planning an event?

The biggest thing that people underestimate is communication and just how clear you have to be, whether that’s through emails, messages, phone calls or in person. People can easily misinterpret information, which in turn could potentially send the whole event into disarray! Always be as clear as you can when communicating with people and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification!

Have you ever had something go wrong whilst planning an event? How were you able to solve this problem?

Thankfully nothing too drastic has happened at one of my events…touchwood! But there was this one event I was involved in where extravagant centerpieces of tall flowers and candles made quite the showstoppers. Whilst guests sat to receive their first course, a gent accidently kicked the table leg causing one side to collapse and everything to go flying! So I was left with an embarrassed, angry man covered in wax, a room full of silenced guests and two very shocked clients! To make matters worse, the chefs and waiters were waiting for my guidance whilst holding all the plated food. In moments like this you really think to yourself ‘why do I do this for a living?!’ But after a few deep breaths, some quick thinking and advanced juggling you can get everything back on track and leave the event with one hell of a testimonial.

The best way is to actually slow down when your natural instinct is to try and do everything as quick as possible! When something like this happens, you just need to take your ego out of it, even if it wasn’t your fault, it’s still your responsibility to resolve. Working in events you just have to accept that some things will go wrong and you need to be logical and adaptable to any situation.

How do you measure the success of an event? Do you have any examples of a particularly successful event you organised?

What did the client say? Were they happy with how the event went? Customer feedback as well as reviews left in social media are vital when judging the success of
an event. There is also the number of attendees, exposure and reach from the promotion of the event to consider. Objectively, some events will set goals – a retail event wants ‘x’ many sales for example. Our Best of British shopping event is successful as there is a clear target that we reach. It is a fantastic showcase of some awesome brands and something we are looking to continue every year.

Parting thoughts: I hope you guys found this interview as insightful into the events industry as I did! If you want to check out more of Tom’s work and The Event Fixers you can do so by following him on instagram @TheEventFixer or visit his website www.tom-simmonds.com

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