I have been conducting my own stealth poll. Not the online kind. To a wide database of contacts with survey-style, multiple choice questions and voting buttons to boot. But the personal kind. Face-to-face and almost certainly with such a sense of urgency – not to mention secrecy – as to cause my interviewees some considerable alarm.
When I meet people who work in the industry I ask them this one question – when someone asks you what you do for a living, what do you tell them? The almost universal answer is that they don’t. Tell them that is.
As recently as last week, I asked this same question of a board director of a well-known (and always profitable) agency operating in the highly competitive and compliant healthcare events sector. And he didn’t either. Tell them that is. What he does for a living. And so, I have decided, that now seems like the right time to share my findings. Because, thanks to my now long running poll, I now know why people, like this colleague, don’t like to share.
Because we know the way that this particular line of questioning so often goes. The first, all too easy assumption, is that we are the organisers of weddings and parties. The second, possibly requiring a little more understanding of the exact nature of the industry, is that we are travel agents.
Now, I can see why people could so easily assume both of the above. Because, often, what they see is that we have inside knowledge about a new hotel or venue opening. Or, too often, we are traveling or about to travel to a new destination, for work. In my case, I like to watch public or high-profile events on the television and see how long it takes me to name the venue – the horrible originality of hotel carpet patterns being a near certain give away.
So, is it any wonder that people we know and meet make such easy assumptions about what we do for a job? Or that we find the process of correcting them (and offering a more accurate version of our day-to-day) so tedious and to be frank, not worth the effort?
I wonder why we don’t say we manage logistics, event logistics. Logistics is a core discipline, alongside project management and budget management, of our profession. And, as event logistics is the backbone of what we all do, I can’t help but conclude that it would be a very satisfactory answer to the aforementioned question.
However, does event logistics sound dull compared to the more creative aspects of the work that we do? Is that why we don’t offer it as a catch-all descriptor. After all, logistics – in any other industry – is a sought after and highly rewarded skill set that comes with a professional career path and staged accreditation. And if this is the case, has the swing towards the creative industries vocabulary that we now like to use to define ourselves, resulted in event logistics being seen as a rather poor cousin.
I’m led to conclude that we are in some ways, loathed to offer event logistics as a career choice over and above creative communications or some such. When, in fact, we know that the bulk of management fees are still assigned to day-to-day running of projects. And, that without the talent of those who deliver event logistics, day-in and day-out, in our agencies, we would all struggle to survive.
So, next time someone asks you what you do for a living, say event logistics. And say it with pride. If nothing else, it will lead to a more meaningful line of questioning or the need to explain that wedding planning is not in your repertoire!