Do You Have Enough Empathy to Succeed in Events?

During the summer, I often connect with college students who are interested in learning about the meeting and events industry. Invariably I’m asked, “What does it take to succeed? What kind of person does well in the events industry?” More often than not, I tell them they need to have these attributes:

  • A desire to learn. The industry is so vast that no matter what you think you know, your advanced “event education” begins when you land your first full-time job. And that education never ends! Consider what you need to learn about your employer — its culture, product, service, and process let alone the space your employer inhabits within the industry. And events are larger, more complex, and multinational. Your greatest value proposition is your ability and desire to learn.
  • Hospitality. People come to events in order to have an experience. Successful event professionals treat event attendees like guests in their homes. We’re in the hospitality business . . . with an equal emphasis on hospitality and business.
  • Relationship skills. Event management is more than managing tasks and delivering on time. Events require teams to produce — teams that can work together well under intense pressure. Events require producers/planners who inspire confidence in clients — and not only for their skills to multi-task, their ability to proactively communicate, and their stamina to endure 12-hour days. They inspire confidence because they are trusted, too. Relationships are built on trust.
  • Wanderlust. If you hate to travel, stay away from events. Putting on a great event means being onsite wherever the event is, from Shanghai to San Diego. Sure, the opportunity to travel abroad can be appealing to an events newbie, but travel often means being holed up in a hotel ballroom for days on end. You need to love living on the go, even when home is a cramped table in a temporary hotel war room littered with empty Red Bull cans and Power Bar wrappers.
  • Communication skills. As your experience with events grows, you appreciate their power to motivate and inspire audiences. To move the hearts and minds of an event audience, you need to learn how to craft — and sell — a compelling message and story. Doing so requires honing your skills in listening to a client and then designing an experience that will move an audience.
  • Self-awareness. It’s really important to be aware of what you know and know what you don’t know — and to be very secure with both. Be confident in your skills and yet be sure to speak up when you need help tackling an assignment that does not play to your strengths. You will build confidence in others as your colleagues get the measure of your capabilities and willingness to complement your skills with the talents of others.

Bottom line: The events industry requires stamina, grace under pressure, and an ability to understand your audience — or empathy. If you’re not sure whether events are for you, ask yourself: how empathic am I? Do I have the ability to put myself in someone else’s shoes and understand their needs? Am I hungry to learn?

For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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