Jenni Eley - Head of Events, ITV
Be yourself. Believe in yourself.
Jenni Eley shares a few words of wisdom and advice that have helped her shape a highly successful career. Read on to hear her story and also learn about the Fast Forward 15 programme which pairs mentors like Jenni with women looking to advance their careers in events and hospitality.
ICE: Head of Events for ITV is a big role, tell me a bit more about what it encompasses.
JE: As part of the Marketing department, my job is to bring the ITV brand to life by creating unforgettable live events that showcase ITV to a wide range of audiences both in the UK and internationally. I manage a team of 15 people, which is pretty big for an in-house events team, and together we produce nearly 200 events a year. A great example of the type of event we manage is the press launch for the recent series Victoria, held at Kensington Palace. Or to take an international example, we did our first showcase for clients in South Africa for the ITV Choice channel.
ICE: What do you enjoy most?
JE: I have the privilege of working in a creative business with passionate people and I love that creativity is at the forefront of everything we do. Across the business, we are always asking ourselves how to make more impact; how to make things better. The scope of what we do also means that no two days are ever the same. It’s kept me interested for five years now and I still feel challenged.
ICE: How did you start out?
JE: I got my first taste of events management when I organised a party in Sixth Form. With the money I made from ticket sales I managed to take a holiday, combining my love of travel and events. So I knew broadly what I was looking for when I left university. My first job was in publishing where I was both office manager and events manager. It was a great learning experience because I had to do everything myself, gaining exposure to all aspects of the job from finding speakers to managing suppliers.
ICE: What is the best career advice you’ve been offered?
JE: Years ago a colleague of mine told me something that has really stuck with me, ‘In your career, you’ve got to be yourself.’ There was a point where I shifted industries and as a result I lost myself a little bit. It wasn’t the right environment for me and I started to fall out of love with events. The world of events isn’t a nine to five job so it’s essential that you enjoy what you do. I think you’ve got to try lots of different things to find out what makes you tick. For me, it’s being in a creative environment.
ICE: To get to where you are now, what has been your biggest challenge?
JE: Like lots of people, I think that one of the hardest things has been believing in myself. When I was first starting out, I worried that I needed to shout the loudest and be really vocal to command attention. I wasn’t always comfortable in that role. Over time, I’ve realised that there are different ways to achieve success and I’ve learned what works for me that enables me to be myself.
ICE: In your view, what makes a good leader?
JE: A good leader knows that they don’t know everything. Yes, they need to have a vision and a plan, but they also need to bring the team along with them. That means acknowledging their individual talents, challenging them to do even better and giving them the tools, space and support in which to succeed.
ICE: How do you continue to develop yourself and your skills?
JE: There’s so much out there in the industry that the difficult part is actually deciding what to read, attend or follow. I read a number of publications such as Event magazine, Campaign and C&IT as well as attending events like the BNC Show and Square Meal seminars. I’m also a big fan of the School of Life in Kings Cross. If people don’t know about that already, they should really check it out. It’s not events specific, but they offer short evening sessions that are focused on personal development. Things like Finding a Job You Love, How to Deal with Conflict or Be More Entrepreneurial at Work.
ICE: What do you see as the biggest challenge for the industry at the moment?
JE: Demonstrating return on investment is definitely something that is facing everyone. Proving the value of live events is essential, not only in the context of defining budgets, but in measuring business impact. I really emphasise to my team the importance of asking the big questions at the start of every project. Interrogate the business to understand why they are doing the event, define what success looks like and agree on how to measure it.
ICE: Any words of wisdom for those wanting to get ahead in the industry?
JE: As a mentor in the Fast Forward 15 programme, I want to remind everyone that applications are open for this year until the end of February. Fast Forward 15 inspires, encourages and empowers women in the events and hospitality industry to achieve their best through a year-long mentoring partnership. Learn more at www.fastforward15.co.uk. It would also be great to hear about any other initiatives out there, as I know that mentoring isn’t the only route to career advancement.
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