Updated: Dec 5, 2019
Name; Nikki Urquhart
Job Title; Account Manager
Company; Sterling Event Group
Hey Nikki, thanks for being our lastest HotSeat.
Please tell us a little bit about your career journey – what led you into the hospitality/events industry?
I studied Spanish & Film at university so I knew I wanted to be involved with something creative and with the possibility to use my language skills but didn’t really have a specific plan of what that might look like. I worked as a PA during my breaks from Uni and as part of this, I was involved in helping to organise small events, team away days and a large golf day for the company via an events management agency.
I really enjoyed dipping my toe into the world of events so, as a long shot, I contacted the MD of the agency I was working with when I left university to see if I could get some work experience with him and was lucky enough to be offered a full time position! After 4 years planning and managing events across the globe, I felt I needed a new challenge and made the move over to the technical side of the industry and there’s been a lot to learn!
You’re now with Sterling Event Group, please tell us about your role, the company and the type of projects you work on day-to day?
Sterling Event Group is a leading technical production company, we provide all of the technical aspects for events like the PA systems, screens, lighting, staging and all sorts of custom creations in between. I work as one of the Account Managers to bridge the gap between the technical team, clients and venues. Often people come to us saying they know they need kit for their event but they don’t know exactly what, so I use my past experience as an event manager to work with clients to get into the details of their event and work with them to get the right solution for their conference, party, product launch etc. The project managers are always super busy and often out on site so my role allows for a constant point of communication and to keep the client in the loop and feeling confident their event is in safe hands.
What’s your favourite thing about the role that you do?
I think the variety and flexibility of my days and my role. I’m thankful to have had the freedom to make the role my own so I really enjoy getting out and about and meeting new people and everyone has a different vision of what they’re looking for and to chat with them, build up a working relationship and then ultimately see the client enter their transformed room and see that vision come to life gives you a great sense of achievement and it’s my favourite part about the job.
What would you say motivates you everyday?
Feedback. When clients take the time to write out an email to say thank you or to say that you’ve helped make the planning process smoother or less stressful for them and they’ve had great feedback from their team it does really make the long days worth it and gives you the boost to move onto the next big project. Even if on the occasion everything doesn’t go 100% to plan, it’s great to get constructive feedback as it gives you a direction and a framework to improve upon.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
Working in live events is great as you put your all into a project for months then when you get to the live show and then see everyone enjoying themselves and receive great client feedback, you get a huge sense of pride and achievement from it, but I think my highlight has to be a recent project I worked on for a new client. I was an integral part of the project team from the very initial venue site visit all the way through to the on-site delivery. It was one of the biggest value single projects the company has had and the client commented that my level of service and attention to detail was a primary reason for us winning the contract. That comment made me proud of my efforts and helped me feel that as someone with a non-technical background working in a technical environment, my input still has value within the company and my role within the industry is worthwhile.
Throughout your career have you drawn inspiration from anyone in particular? (male or female)
There’s no one person that immediately springs to mind but in the last couple of years I’ve met some amazing women in the industry who ooze confidence and are genuinely lovely people and I take inspiration from them and the way they’re owning what they do and smashing it in their careers. I hope some of that confidence starts to rub off on me too!
Are there any emerging trends with the industry (events or hospitality) you think we’ll see more of over the next few years?
I think the terms ‘unique’ and ‘custom’ are what I’m seeing most of in event proposals and briefs at the moment. Events are regaining popularity as a way to engage audiences in a real-world environment but the power of social media is still there and with people being invited to events on a weekly or even daily basis, there needs to be something within your event that’s different, that people haven’t seen at every other event before – and something they want to put on Instagram! We’re using screen technologies to create custom shaped or ratio screens to make the digital content look more unique and exciting and then custom building sets or features within events to give them the wow-factor and I think this is only going to get more popular as influencer culture continues to rise and people need ‘never-seen-before’ elements in their events.
What do you find most challenging about working in the events industry?
Keeping a good work/life balance! The industry is notorious for long hours and high levels of stress. When working on a big project I can often end up working late evenings and weekends to keep on top of everything and although my on-site hours are a lot less now than they used to be, they can be long and tiring days. When I can, I try my best to take time for myself and spend time with friends and family but I’m sure they’ll all say I could definitely do better at this!
Do you ever feel pressures of being a female within a fairly male dominated line of work?
Thankfully not anymore. I work with a great team of guys who see value in what I do and I’m proud to have progressed fairly consistently throughout my career so far, at a similar rate to male colleagues.
What advice would you give to young women who are looking to get into the industry?
Don’t get tricked into thinking that working in events is only parties and travel to fun places, while that is a part of it, there’s a lot behind the scenes hard work that goes into producing events. It can be incredibly rewarding though so get work experience where you can, keep a positive and inquisitive attitude and be willing to put in the effort. Whilst I have a degree, it’s not directly relevant to the job I do. Getting involved in helping with events early-on and always asking the right questions and being keen to learn from anyone I could have served me better in my career progression than specific qualifications.
If you could invite any 5 people to dinner, (alive or that have passed), who would they be and why would you invite them?
Hmm this is a tough one! I always struggle to come up with answers for questions like these. I think I’d have to say Kevin Bridges to start with. My family are Scottish and a lot of his stand up reminds me of fun childhood memories or just makes me feel closer to home so he’d be a top choice. Then probably Stephen Fry as I find him fascinating and I love to learn so could sit and listen to his stories for ages. A slightly soppy one but I think my Grandpa who passed away when I was 6/7. I remember him being so much fun and it would be amazing to talk to him as an adult now and learn more about him and show him how far I’ve come. For the final two I’d say Davina McCall and Rebel Wilson. They’re both strong, funny women that are confident in who they are and own it, and I greatly admire that about them.