Updated: May 29, 2021
In my first series of Inspirational #Eventprofs, I wanted to make noise about some of the incredible rising stars in the industry. For many of us, our events journey started with 3 years through university, leaving for a graduate position and working our way to the top. Amidst a global pandemic, these graduate positions were not the easiest to come by and many event students and graduates were feeling left behind.
Recognising the lack of support given to recent and upcoming event grads, Naomi Hollas started with an online profile to bring the community together to educate, inform, and inspire. And inspire, she has. With a small wing team to support her, Event Grads is nearing a 2000 strong tribe across Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn and I only envision this growing and growing. With many exciting things in the pipeline, I spoke with Naomi to find out what inspired her to start Event Grads, the successes and what's next...
Firstly, I would like to say what an incredible job you have done with Event Grads over the past year. You have built an incredible brand and community that really seems to be leaning on each other at a time when the industry is and has been, at its lowest. For those that don't know, tell us more about Event Grads.
Thank you so much Chloe, the last year has really been a rollercoaster but the event community rallied together to support one another which has been really special to experience.
Event Grads is a community and support network for event management students and graduates, our aim is to bring together like-minded aspiring event professionals and champion the next generation. We are primarily a private Facebook group specifically for event students and graduates, a safe space to share advice and concerns, make connections and exchange knowledge.
As an event graduate myself, I hope Event Grads can help with the transition from school, college or uni to industry, to make it that bit easier. To do this, the team and I organise webinars, workshops, events and share resources to connect our members with industry professionals, widen perspectives and to showcase the many different routes, roles and sectors within the industry. We believe this will help to build our members confidence in their own abilities and the industry itself.
You're a recent event graduate yourself. How was graduating/going through your first-year postgrad through a global pandemic?
I graduated in 2019 so my year group luckily had a very small taste of life in the industry before the pandemic hit and everything changed. I think this was difficult for my year as we had just got our foot in the door, we were finally starting our career journey after years of studying and then all of a sudden it felt as though we were back to square one. Unfortunately, many of my year decided to leave the event industry during this time which really breaks my heart. I think the hardest part for many was the unknown, and that even the professionals didn’t have the answers.
My biggest fear during the pandemic as a recent grad was not being productive enough (toxic, I know!). I had seen a tweet about interviewers asking people what they were doing during the lockdown and that struck absolute fear in me. I’m a productive person as it is, and as an aspiring event professional, I like to be busy and work on projects so I quite literally did every free course, webinar, workshop available online. I also redecorated my room, took Gaelic lessons and tried to learn how to knit… looking back, however, I realise that this was my way of coping, by taking control of a very uncontrollable situation. One year later I kind of wish I took it easy but how were we to know, and plus, I wouldn’t be where I am now otherwise!
As a recent grad, one thing that the pandemic made me realise was that there’s a huge absence of support, resources and guidance in place for event industry newcomers. I guess that is why Event Grads flourished the way it did because there’s not enough in place within Events. I guess Event Grads was my way of not only being able to serve and provide support for others but a way to support myself too.
What was the inspiration behind starting Event Grads and it becoming the community it has become?
I like to joke that event grads started by accident, I mean, it kind of did in a way as I never expected it to be where it is today, 10 months down the line. However, my aim was to create a space for knowledge exchange, to share, to connect with like-minded people, and that is still at our core today.
I was first made redundant right at the beginning of lockdown, and by June I felt like I had exhausted all my options. As I mentioned, I had done all the courses I could find, from health and safety, tourism and hospitality, mental health, anything that was relevant to the world of events. I was constantly reaching out on LinkedIn and getting a minimal response, which is completely understandable given the circumstances. But this was the spark that led me to create the group.
The group started as a Facebook group for my connections, those I knew who were studying or graduated from events, it started to grow as they added their friends, who added their friends and so on. I then decided to share the group on LinkedIn to hopefully reach more students and graduates who felt the same way I did. This was when industry professionals and academics started reaching out in support of the group and shared it with their connections - which is really when I realised how in demand a group such as this was, even just a space dedicated to this group, event students and graduates, who in the past have been underrepresented.
This group has taught and inspired me so much, and on top of the community aspect, Event Grads is now a platform that aims to demonstrate the value of event education and showcase the value students, graduates and industry newcomers bring to the industry.
You have an amazing support group on Facebook which is now over 2000 strong. We'd love to hear some of the successes you've had over there.
Absolutely! It really is a lovely space to be in. Honestly, the biggest success has really been the friendships and connections we’ve all made. On Mondays, we have a zoom call for the group called Event Grads Cafe which is the highlight of our week. It’s the best opportunity to get to know each other better. Instead of a structured networking format, it’s a casual environment and most of the time we are laughing and showing our pets!
We have made brand new friendships and expanded our network not only across the UK but across the world which is really amazing! It’s been great to learn about the event industry internationally which I believe is a really valuable insight to have at the beginning of your career.
It’s a collaborative space and I’m really grateful that we’ve been able to learn and grow with each other. Another huge success is that some of our group have been able to gain experiences and jobs from opportunities shared in the group which is really fulfilling. We’ve created jobs boards and encourage others to post opportunities they see in the group for other members too which really allows for that knowledge exchange and community feel!
Collaboration has been key this past year, not just to produce content but to help build a community. The Event Grad team is built up of some truly inspiring profs (watch out for Grace Nelson, I can guarantee she will be moderating live events in the future). Tell us how you got them involved and how you work together to bring amazing webinars and events to your community.
The Event Grads team are truly incredible and are some now my closest friends - I can’t wait to meet them in person! The team all share the passion of supporting and championing the next generation, they all bring their own values, ideas and passions into the team which really helps us provide a wider supportive approach.
EG would not be where it is today without Grace, Rose, Clemy, Mary, Alisha, Amy, Natalia, Connor, Lesley and all who have volunteered their time to our mission, and for that I cannot thank them enough! We’ve all had great opportunities as a team to develop our own skills too like presenting and delivering talks, supporting student events and organising our own virtual events!
We’ve also been able to collaborate with the most amazing professionals and organisations who mirror our values and mission, such as yourself Chloe, which is a dream come true! There are too many to name but I hope I can repay every single one for their time and guidance. We’re also still really close to our lecturers, colleges and universities who have been some of our biggest supporters from the beginning.
I see you have recently started a new role, congrats! How are you finding balancing a new role, and growing the community?
Thank you! Honestly, the transition from furlough and redundancy to working full time again has been harder than I expected. Although I treated Event Grads as a full-time job over the last 10 or so months, it’s taking a while to adjust to actual employment again, but I am absolutely loving being back to work. It’s in a brand new sector to me so every day I am learning something new which is what drives me.
I really believe the skills and experience I gain in this role will be transferable to Event Grads and vice versa. Plus, the variety helps me stay motivated too - I’ve always loved the variety and struggle to focus on one thing so I’m really enjoying the balance in that sense. However, I need to keep reminding myself that my wellbeing is a priority and to create boundaries, as it’s way too easy for me to sit inside on my laptop all day!
I’m going to be honest, it’s definitely not been easy and I take my hat off to anyone who does balance full-time work and a passion project - it’s definitely a skill! A lot has changed and continues to change, which has made it difficult to digest the true impact of the last year. I’m taking things one day at a time at the moment and honestly, sometimes that's all you can do!
So, what's the future of Event Grads? And where can the readers find you?
There is so much to come and I cannot wait! The event industry really is our biggest passion so we look forward to seeing how Event Grads develops when the industry re-opens. We hope to meet up with our community in person when guidance allows and continue advocating for the next generation. Community is at our core and we plan to continue building on that, both online and in person.
You can find me here:
Event students and graduates can join the Event Grads Facebook Group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/eventgrads/
You can also find us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter:
Or get in touch with us here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much Chloe for the opportunity to share the Event Grads story!