Q&A with NEC Group’s Allie Bishop & Lily Tomkins
To mark International Women’s Day, IQ catches up with senior event manager Allie Bishop and event manager Lily Tomkins, to find out more about their day-to-day in the (predominantly female) events management team for NEC Group’s Resorts World Arena and Utilita Arena Birmingham.
What does your day usually look like?
Allie Bishop: Every day is different! But generally, I make sure the wider event management team have the time, resources and training they need to be able to deliver successful events. I also have my own event workload, which involves getting as much information as possible out of a tour, then translating it into an event that will fit safely and successfully into our buildings. Day-to-day this requires a lot of liaison with different people and departments to ensure everyone is working to the same information and objectives. I tend to find myself getting involved in wider projects too, offering operational input into projects that improve our customer journey.
Lily Tomkins: My role is split between planning and utilising information and being the duty manager for shows during the open period. When advancing shows I receive details from the client which is disseminated to our internal arenas teams to ensure the show can be run successfully. As a duty manager you are responsible for the safety of the public during the show, helped very much by the security event manager and event safety representative.
“Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board”
How did you start working in the events industry and more specifically for the NEC Group?
AB: I joined the NEC Box Office straight from finishing university, selling tickets in the contact centre. That was 16 years ago! I spent around 10 years in various roles there, before moving over to the event management team around six years ago.
LT: I started in events by volunteering at local festivals and events. Whilst completing a master’s degree in live events at Birmingham City University, I made invaluable contacts during Event Week Live – the NEC Group’s work experience programme for degree-level students – and then as a member of its subsequent Elite mentoring programme, which led me to this role.
What aspect of your job do you most enjoy?
AB: I enjoy problem solving and coming up with different ways of doing things. We’re given great opportunities in our position to challenge the norm and come up with new ideas and solutions, which is very satisfying.
LT: I love the production side and seeing what goes on behind the scenes to put a show together.
What can be the most challenging aspect of your job?
AB: Following Covid, it’s taken a long time for workers to fully return to the industry, and with events coming in quickly there are still gaps in experience across the board, with people often juggling a lot more. Our role has become a lot more reactive as opposed to proactive, which for people who love to plan, can be difficult.
LT: I’ve not been in the role long so learning all aspects of the job has been quite challenging and finding my way around each arena! Also remembering everyone’s names…
“I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender”
Is there a project or particularly rewarding moment you can highlight?
AB: It’s always rewarding to enjoy the ‘calm before the storm’ – usually a five-minute window between the show being built, but not yet being open to the public. It’s just a snapshot view of the work you’ve put in over the last few months to get it to where it is.
LT: I found the first event I planned and managed last August most rewarding as it felt like a rite of passage into the team!
What is your favourite thing about working in a team of women?
AB: We’re a tight-knit team that always looks out for each other. If someone has had a rough day on a show or with their workload, there will always be someone who will offer to help in whatever way they can.
LT: The team are very supportive of each other as we all know how demanding the role can be, so we all look out for each other.
Do you feel there is a gender imbalance across the live events industry as a whole and if so, do you think enough is being done to address it?
AB: Looking out on the arena floor at 6am for a load in, often you’re one of a handful of women who make up the 100-plus people there to get the show built. It isn’t always the case though, and there are certainly more female reps, touring personnel and security than there were a few years ago. I think arenas have led the way when it comes to bringing on board new talent into operational roles, regardless of gender.
LT: I have been fortunate that most of the teams I have worked in have been mostly female-led and I have never felt held back or discriminated against as a female in any of my roles. However, I have found that when you hit a more senior level within an organisation these roles can often be predominantly male-led. I do think more industries are acknowledging this now and making changes where possible.
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