Katy Stephens joined us in September 2018 as Events Sales Executive. With over 20 years’ experience in London’s conference and events industry, in her new role Katy focuses on maximising opportunities for Sadler’s Wells’ spaces as hire venues and searching for new clients.
Hi Katy, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I was born and bred in a small coastal village in Essex. After miserably failing my A-Level exams, a friend suggested that I should enrol on to a BTEC National Diploma in Hotel Management, Hospitality and Operations. I had the best time there, learning not only all the aspects of hotel management, but also how to cook, plan menus, and run restaurants and bars. After college, I went on to do a management training programme, rotating in various departments in different hotels until I decided to focus on Front of Office and Reception.
Within a couple of years and with further progression, I became Conference and Event Manager at an independently-owned, four-star hotel in South Kensington. Apart from the hotel sector, I also worked in the catering industry, corporate hospitality and event management, holding positions such as Regional Sales Manager and Senior Events Manager supervising spaces like ExCel London and working on prestigious events such as the London Boat Show, the Classic Car Show and World Travel Market.
A key moment in my career was when I joined the events team at the Hilton London Metropole, where I had the opportunity to arrange one of my most memorable events: the organisation and event management of the Olympic Sponsors, VISA, in 2012. I was lucky enough to attend the Opening Ceremony!
From setting up hospitality and VIP dining in a tent to sumptuous banquets in the Hinze Hall at the Natural History Museum, the list is of events I managed is endless, and each one was completely different! I’ve worked in Front of House to greet guests, but also put the gloves on, and helped the team clear plates and glasses. That’s how this industry works!
Have you noticed any difference working at an arts organisation compared to working in a more corporate setting? Was there anything particular about Sadler’s Wells that drew you in?
First of all, the atmosphere is much more relaxed at Sadler’s Wells compared to a corporate setting. The environment in the office is a joy to work in, with many laughs and discussions on the wide and varied range of events that we hold. This is not to say that working here comes without challenges. The deadlines for venue availability are ever-changing, making some of the sales aspects a little more difficult.
Also, as my background is more corporate, it has been hard to ensure that we are targeting the right market sector for the spaces. This has involved going down the more artistic route, hunting out contacts and looking for business in areas where I had not ventured before! It’s great that I have the opportunity to work with a new type of business and learn the way of working within a theatre environment, where each event enquiry is unique.
Before coming to Sadler’s Wells, I was briefly exposed to event management in the arts. During a temporary contract with a leading catering company, I worked with the Event teams organising The Brits Awards 2018 at the O2 and the Mercury Music Awards 2018 at the Eventim Apollo. When the opportunity to join an exclusive artistic venue like Sadler’s Wells arose, it was too good to miss.
You joined the events team in September. What does your job entail? What are the most exciting and challenging aspects of it?
Since joining the team, I have been asked to take a more proactive role to ensure that we are up to date with our online listings for both venue information and availability and to increase the number of enquiries that we receive.
The additional capacity within the Events team since I joined also means that we can now be more involved with our partners at Unique Venues of London, London City Selection and London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and their activities. I regularly attend the members’ meetings and search for opportunities to work and network with them, and open up the venue spaces to a wider audience who maybe didn’t know about all of the facilities that we have available for hire. Our goal is to maximise the use of all our spaces through bookings from corporate and commercial business
I have always firmly believed that ‘people buy from people’ and that, if you are confident and believe in your product, your clients will be more inclined to go with you as a venue.
What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing a career in event management in the arts?
Be prepared to learn and be quick! In the events and catering industry you are always learning. It is an industry that is ever-changing.
Be mindful that event management in the arts world is not the same as in the corporate environment. Therefore, learn the rules! Have an understanding of how systems work in each setting and what you need to get in order to make a complete and concise proposal. Make sure you copy in all relevant colleagues to emails and correspondence, as in this environment it is a 24/7 operation. Event management is not a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job! To be a successful event manager, be prepared to work hard and often long hours.
Have the memory of an elephant. You will have hundreds of conversations in an hour and someone will always come back and say, “You know that thing you mentioned…”. If you are not sure, write it down!