Wow what a week it’s been, and quite possibly one of the most exciting but also exhausting periods of my career to date. The company and brand I started 18 months ago has officially expanded from London to the regions and also launched its very own industry mentoring programme, Evolve.
When I took the decision to change direction EWL was born out of my own career need at the time, which simply boiled down to finding a simpler way to network, share knowledge and get advice from my event industry peers.
EWL is very special to me. When I decided to swap over to event planning, there were no industry events that gave me to opportunity to sit down with other planners, and suppliers, and have quality conversations around the issues and the challenges we face on a daily basis as event professionals.
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of events you could pop along to after work, have a few drinks and chat about your week a little, and then spend the rest of the evening dodging the suppliers hell bent on collecting as many business cards as they can, just to prove to their powers that be that they got some value out of attending.
I’d identified a gap in the market, and I wanted to create something different, something that wasn’t about filling your pockets with business cards, something that wasn’t about getting as many people together in one room as possible – which can be quite intimidating for many, especially if you are attending an event on your own – I wanted to create something of value to event professionals and something that was centred around intimate events with good discussion and easy networking, events that people would come away from feeling like they had really got something out of.
So in February 2015 EWL Club London was born and the first event was held at Boyds Grill and Wine Bar at 8 Northumberland Place in April. A lunch discussing women in events.
Why lunches and why during business hours? Well when you are networking you are representing not just yourself but also the company you work for or own, right? So why should it be normal practise to attend a networking event outside of your normal working hours, why is it expected that event professionals attend networking events in their own time? Time that is becoming ever more valuable as we debate the work-life balance!
The business name? EWL, an acronym for #Eventprofs Who lunch, was thought of simply to show the fun and lighthearted side to the industry, but with a serious angle of course, we’re a serious business club after all, hence EWL Club.
The events? Quite simply lunches and coffee mornings limited to 16 people, to encourage great conversations and debate, each chaired and guest hosted by an industry thought-leader on a topical issue important to us as professionals in our industry. None intimidating, relaxed and friendly with no egos, attended by planners and agencies, suppliers and venues with no shameless selling allowed.
At last there were events you could attend as a planner without the fear of being bombarded by suppliers selling, and without the need to stop suppliers attending, simply ask them to mind their manners and join in the discussion and the business would follow naturally as planners engaged with them as individuals with a voice.
I quickly discovered that EWL was something that other people were looking for, and the club swiftly grew in size and at the end of 2015 we had 175 members, and from our feedback had held 8 really good events. The decision was then made to officially incorporate EWL Club UK as a not for profit company, with an official launch event in January 2016, and today we have 450 UK members, with two newly launched regional branches, EWL North and EWL Midlands, and now something I am incredibly proud of and launched this week, EWL Evolve, a new all inclusive and industry wide mentoring programme for event professionals.
We’ve held some great events with some fantastic thought-leaders who have included, to name but a few; Robert Dunsmore, Alistair Turner, Emma Stoker, Samme Allen, Claire Derrick and even DCMS representative Rebecca Hadlow.
I’m incredibly proud of what’s been achieved and with the help of 3 fantastic committees and team of event professionals, who are a credit to EWL. Also not that I want to brag but also achieved whilst pregnant and then with a new born baby who is now 5 months old, being a new mum should certainly not create a barrier – although it’s been tough – and it’s proof that working mums can be more productive and not less as generally perceived!
Not only is EWL the business and event community I created, it’s also my way of giving back to an industry that has provided me with 20 great years of hard graft but amazing fun, and I’ve met some equally hard grafters and fantastic people along the way, some of which I am very proud to also call friends!
I’m passionate about EWL because I’m passionate about our industry and what we do as marketing and event professionals, long may both continue and thrive. I’m excited for the future of EWL, our Evolve mentees, our ever expanding membership and the events industry.
Until next time #eventprofs…