Behind the Scenes... 10 minutes with an Event Manager

Today we feature an insight into the life and background of a leading Event Manager in Australia and New Zealand. It is Rachael O’Connor, the National Conferences and Events (C&E) Manager for Corporate Challenge Events.

Rachael is not just the brains, but also the muscle behind the C&E department and is responsible for creating, planning and executing over 30 corporate, government and not-for-profit events each year. She has produced events for some of Australia’s largest companies including NAB, GE, Pepsico, Corrections Victoria and the Just Group.

When you were growing up, what did you want to be?

This one is a tough question as I always had quite the imagination as a child! I dreamt of being everything from an actress to a ballerina, a lawyer, a psychologist and even a hotel manager!

What was your first job?

I started my first job when I was 15 at a local bakery. I think your first job always teaches you some great principles, although I must say those early mornings were a killer!

How did you get to be in the events industry?

I studied a Diploma in Events Management, Business, Marketing and Product Development after I completed school. From there, I started working for Corporate Challenge Events as a program coordinator and five years later I was given the opportunity to develop a new department in the company… that’s when Corporate Challenge Conferences and Events was officially born!

What do you love about your job?

My favourite part would have to be the versatility of my job! In addition, I love meeting new people, the challenges that come with the events industry and running a department, and the satisfaction that comes when I help bring a client’s vision to life. I also think it’s great that I get paid to be organised!

What is your favourite event you’ve ever organised and why?

There are two events that first come to mind.

Epic Pharmacy was my absolute favourite event I have produced, as I had a great relationship with the client and I loved watching all the event elements come together. It was the most creative event I’ve delivered as yet and included amazing theming, fireworks, paint canons, a fire banner reveal, 100 coloured beanbags and so much more!  

The Corrections Victoria Conference was my first baby and had a very complex schedule!  It was five days, 200 delegates, 500 room nights, five dinners and 200 individual schedules. This really challenged me and helped me to grow in my role and for that reason, it will always be one of my favourites!  

What do you like to do on weekends? How do you relax?

We live near the beach so we love to go for a long walk on a Saturday morning and grab a coffee.  

What is the most exciting event on the calendar for you this year?

I am getting married in May so that is very exciting. We are also in the process of building our first house which is almost ready for us to move into!   

Who is your inspiration or role model?

My mum because she is the most organised woman I know!

What advice do you have for aspiring event managers?

I think there are three vital pieces of advice I could give:

1. Study – listen and learn!

2. Volunteer – get involved in as many events as possible in all different areas of the industry, whether it be corporate, not-for-profit, community, festivals, styling or logistics. It is here you will find your niche in the market and discover what you love to do!

3. Network and build relationships – as they always say, ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’.

What qualities do you need to be successful in the events industry?

The qualities that I’ve found I’ve needed to be successful in the industry are...being level headed, assertive, show good initiative and be able to think on your feet, be professional, have great time management and organisational skills, be flexible, creative, passionate and possess the ability to connect with all kinds of people!

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Australia, the best country in the world!

What is your favourite holiday destination?

That’s a tough question! I would have to say Santorini for the serenity, Poland for the food and the Barossa Valley for the wine!

What is your favourite food indulgence?

Cheese! (only the good stuff though!) 

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