Friday 12th November saw the return of the Manchester Metropolitan University Events Management teams’ flagship event; the Connect Conference. Hosted and sponsored by Manchester Central Convention Complex, events management students from all year groups were invited to buy tickets to attend the event, which promised to inspire and connect them to the events industry.
The Connect Conference, now in its 8th year of running, has grown year on year in terms of its success and enthusiasm from students and professionals alike. The Events Management teaching team at Manchester Met, understand how important connections and hands-on experience are to the successful employment of their students post-graduation. Therefore, a huge effort is put in by the whole team to ensure that their personal networks are shared with the students.
On the day, students arrived at Manchester Central for early morning refreshments. From 09:30 – 11:15 they were inspired by two incredible industry speakers. First Raj Somaiya, Founder and CEO of Silver Fox Events; with 30 years Asian wedding planning experience, and his own TV show ‘My Big Fat Asian Wedding’, the students were wowed by his stories of failure and success, as his career has involved organising weddings in some of the very best international hotels, with clients and guests who have exceptionally high expectations. The second keynote speaker was the incredible Melissa Noakes, Head of Sponsorship and Events for Santander. She provided students with helpful advice on how to get into the events industry and gave them an insight to her corporate world.
Following a coffee break, students could select from two seminars ‘First Steps into Employement’ which welcomed two of Manchester Met events management alumni Saffron Mattu and Nyomi Rose, Founder of The Event Grads Naomi Hollas and Kaitlin Kobrak from Event First Steps onto a panel discussion, led by Senior Lecturer Jonathan Sibley. The panel shared their individual journeys with the students, and again provided helpful tips on how to make themselves stand out in the crowd within the recruitment process. The alternative seminar was led by Diversity Ally fonder Gabrielle Austen-Browne, who discussed the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion within the events industry. Students found these sessions exceptionally interesting.
The lunch required students to network with events industry professionals. They were told in advance which professionals will be joining them, but the idea is to work the room and network with as many professionals as they could. This year the event attracted 55 event professionals from various specialisms such as event production, sustainable event management, creative agencies, event venues, international sporting events, festival managers…..there was something for everyone! Students were so grateful that the industry were prepared to volunteer their time to come and speak to them, the advice they sought was invaluable to their career development and strategic vision of their futures. Not only are students taking away solid advice to reflect on, they are were also developing soft skills which some have never experienced before, such as professional networking, communicating with employers and building their own confidence in their areas of strength.
Feedback from students included;
‘In just a few days the Connect Conference has opened up opportunities for me that were no where to be seen before and for that I am thankful for the entire experience’. (Second year student).
‘Fantastic, insightful and inspiring talks and advice given by over 50 leading professionals and it was a pleasure to meet so many of them’. (PG student in International Events Management).
‘I am so grateful to Manchester Met for organising this event for us, it’s really opened my eyes to what other careers exist within the events industry, and I’ve managed to secure some part time work with an employer that I met at the lunch!’ (Final year student).
The day concluded with two more inspiring sessions; Principal lecturer and Programme Leader of Events Management, Shaun Litler conducted an ‘In conversation with’ session with internationally renowned festival director John Probyn. The day concluded on an absolute high as three of the most prevalent sectors of the industry, music, business and festivals, discussed the future of the events industry within Manchester. The panel session included Shaun Hinds, CEO of Manchester Central, Emma Livingstone, Head of Marketing for the AO Arena, Manchester and Martyn Collins, Director of the Digital City Festival. They were full of enthusiasm that students needed to be ready for the industry to explode in 2022; their confidence for the future health of the industry was a perfect way to end a very positive and uplifting day.
Shaun Litler commented ‘I was exceptionally happy with the way the day went, our students benefit massively from networking with so many industry professionals to whom we are exceptionally grateful for providing time, advice and guidance to our students. We were excited to see Alumni returning this year as professionals, who owe much of their success to the Connect Conference and are now willing to come and give something back to the course’.
The events management team are continuously growing their network in events, and welcome new contacts to get in touch.
Article written by Lucy Pittaway, Senior Lecturer in Events Management.