In this month ‘A Day in the Life’ it’s the turn of HeadBox Head of Events, Sheridan Roberts. Hot on the heels of the launch of HeadBox Happen – our end-to-end event management service for virtual, hybrid and in-person events – she talks about her role, how she’s adapted over the last year and what the future holds for events.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role as Head of Events?
I lead the Event Management side of HeadBox, newly named HeadBox Happen. As the name suggests I work with our clients from conception through to completion of their project – whether it’s virtual, hybrid or in-person – in order to make brilliant events… happen! My role is an exciting one as it can be so varied, I’m a team manager, a sales person, a project manager, an event manager and more recently what feels like a TV producer!
My favourite part of my role is the ability to be creative which I can do in every part of my work. No two days are the same as I’m constantly designing something new, coming up with different ideas and building creative solutions for some of the weird and wonderful event briefs that come through the door.
What is your reaction to the Prime Minister’s announcement on the return of live events?
The Government announcements over the past few months have brought some real moments of comedy for me, from the awkward “next slide please”, to seeing email notifications and cursers flying across zoom calls, to the question time in the most recent announcement seeing one journalist ask Boris “are you a gloomster?”
My initial reaction to the latest news is a positive one, we finally have something that we can start to look forward to. Be under no illusion that from the 21st June, events will return to the way they were in 2019 if we see no restrictions, but, there is light at the end of the tunnel now. In a few months time we will be able to see people without a computer screen in between us, we’ll be able to build out stage sets, take on site visits and maybe even clink our glasses together at the end of a successful day, can you imagine?!
That being said, the next transition will be into a hybrid event format, so whilst we will be able to be together in person again, we will also continue with some of the virtual aspects that give us the capabilities to reach a much wider audience. We may never migrate away from the perfect cocktail of a hybrid event, even as confidence grows in larger gatherings.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re planning an event?
Imagine you have a lot of spinning plates, and if one of those plates starts to teeter you need to throw yourself across the floor in order to catch it before it smashes into a hundred pieces.. That is what a typical day in events is like. Each one of those spinning plates is a different component of the event and if one falls down the rest think “oh that looks fun” and threaten to come crashing down too.
I spend a lot of my day working on project plans, putting timelines in place, creating running orders, flitting around various different meetings and venues, all while speaking to my team, clients and suppliers through every kind of medium; phone, email, WhatsApp and internal Slack channels, working to make ideas come alive around you, until you realise it’s 6pm and you can’t text your friend to tell them you’ll be late for that much needed glass of wine because your phone battery has run out. Some days can be really full on, but I love every second of it!
How does it differ to planning a virtual event?
Planning virtual events have some similarities to in-person events but as you can imagine there are a lot of differences too. The largest difference is the amount of technology involved and there is so much of it! There are a whole host of different virtual platforms to choose from and each one offers something different which means you need to learn the ones that work best for different briefs. If we’re utilising the studio and full production then the run of shows have to be much more specific, so each person involved in the delivery knows exactly what’s being shown on screen at any given second of the event; Showcallers really are event heroes!
Empathy really comes into play with virtual events. Even a year into the pandemic speakers still get nervous talking into a camera, rehearsals have never been more important and your audience are having to adapt to a multitude of new and different technologies.
It can be a stressful environment for everyone, especially if you’re on Zoom and have to explain “I am here, I am not a cat” 🐱
What is life like at HeadBox? How has it changed over the last year?
There is never a dull day at HeadBox and I feel exceptionally lucky that I work with such a fantastic group of people. We’ve always been the kind of people that celebrate each others successes, that will put some upbeat music on and offer a witty remark if it looks like someone needs it and that hasn’t changed since we’ve all been working remotely.
The speed at how quickly work and projects get turned around at HeadBox is inspirational and our event positioning in 2020 is testament to that. Within a matter of a couple of weeks of lockdown 1.0 we had completely changed our entire event offering to focus solely on virtual events. We brainstormed, created a concept and utilised our relationships with our Friends of HeadBox to create brilliant online experiences. We made sure we saw each and every event as a lesson of what worked well and what could be improved upon. We’re in a very strong position with virtual events now and we can’t wait to move further forward with hybrid.
What skills do you need to excel in your role?
The most obvious skill is the ability to stay organised, but it also helps to have the memory of an elephant as it’s likely that I’m working on multiple events at one time or supporting the team on their events and that’s a lot of detail to take in! The ability to build strong relationships is absolutely key, running events isn’t a one person job and you need to be able to lean on suppliers and know that they are bringing their ‘ A Game’ to every event as well as build rapport and trust with your clients to give them the peace of mind that everything is under control and enable them to enjoy working with you and enjoy the event. Event Management is very much a team sport!
How do you look after your wellbeing when you’re working from home?
For 2021 I decided I wasn’t going to “give up” anything as a new years resolution, rather “take up” activities that allowed me to have some “me time”. The first is reading, in normal times I love to travel and I’m a real book worm on holiday, whether that’s on a train, plane or a beach but in the past year I haven’t taken the time to read and I love to get lost in a book.
The second is cooking, I wouldn’t say my culinary skills are anything to be desired but I’m enjoying learning more in the kitchen.
The third and final thing is taking up my evenings for me. When working from home it can be so easy to lose track of time because you don’t have the commute home from the office or the event so I’ve been making a conscious effort to log off at a reasonable time, have dinner, pour a glass of wine, open a tub of Salted Caramel Haagen Daaz (delicious) and tune into a gritty true crime documentary (just need to double check I’ve locked the front door before going to bed!).
What are your goals for the year ahead?
My goal for 2021 is to build on the talent within the team and build on our hybrid offering. Live events are back this summer, but the last year has created lasting change in how people connect. Hybrid creates an opportunity to create far-reaching, engaging and sustainable events, which is hugely exciting but it requires a different skillset and throws up its own challenges.
Our clients are going to rely on us heavily throughout the next 12 months as they move into another new event sphere and I want them to know they have a support network they can trust in HeadBox to make brilliant hybrid events happen.