Event and Production Manager (Communication Studies and Sociology, BA)

Amy Weston, Sun Life Financial

Amy Weston graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology and Sociology. Upon graduating from Laurier, Amy wasn’t sure what career she wanted to pursue, which she believes was a good thing as it allowed her to be open-minded once she entered the work force. Initially, Amy had an interest in sport psychology, criminology and HR. However, a friend let her know about an opportunity in marketing, which led to Sun Life being Amy’s first employer after graduation. Since the initial marketing role, Amy has worked in a variety of capacities including marketing and recruitment, which involved some minor event planning leading her to apply to a full-time event planner role on the events team. In her current role as the event and production manager, Amy feels there are many mentors that have enabled her to acquire a great deal of industry knowledge and ‘tricks of the trade’.

Within her current role, Amy spends a great deal of time in front of the computer sourcing locations, venues and activities. After that, she spends a lot of time working on attendee management, registration and flight/hotel details. Amy says most of her events are located at hotels, museums, restaurants and any other event space that works for clients. The types of events Amy coordinates include incentive programs and educational due diligence events across the country. Third party wholesale advisors, career sales force advisors and head office employees are examples of Amy’s clients and the different channels that she works with.

Amy’s team organizes and plans every detail from the moment the attendees leave their homes until they return home after the event. She added that they work very closely with Destination Management Companies (DMCs) to help when event locations are not local. DMCs always know the ins and outs of the location and can provide more detailed information to plan a spectacular event for clients. 

As an event planner, depending on the scope of your clients and events, you get fantastic benefits and opportunities to travel and see some pretty amazing things. Amy has had the pleasure of travelling to many exotic destinations like Cannes, France as well as Croatia, Italy and the Canary Islands to name a few, but the majority of her events take place in Canada and continental U.S. Amy appreciates the variety of her work and that every day is different. She gets to use her creative skills and look for the latest and greatest attendee experience ideas, venues and trends. A large portion of her role is related to technology where she loves being able to dig into the next greatest thing to use at her events such as event apps, online registration tools, or on-site technology to engage attendees. When discussing challenges and difficulties, Amy pointed out that occasionally the practicalities of a budget can sometimes be constraining as ideas can be bigger than the budget.  Amy also noted that the job can be very stressful and take a lot of time away from family given the long work hours leading up to the event. Days leading up to an event, you are almost expected to be available 24 hours per day.

Amy highlighted resourcefulness, time management, communication passion, strong will, ability to creatively solve problems and the ability to stay calm as the most important skills that make a person successful in her role. She also said you need to have a strong personality to be able to be a successful project manager and help your clients make the best decisions from your recommendations. “Essentially, when you are recommending locations or ideas to your client you are selling those items. So being great at sales is also important.” The best training route that led to her position was volunteering for an event planning position which gave her a glimpse of the basic tasks involved in event planning. There are also certificate programs that would be very useful to learn project management skills. For example, you could consider completing the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) Designation.

There are so many levels and kinds of event planning careers. These range from roles within corporations, as well as roles with non-profit organizations, hospitality (hotels, restaurant chains) as well as wedding, tourism and the sports industry.

Finally, Amy invites students to be confident in what they have to offer the world of work. “You are worth more than you think you are. Enjoy every second because time flies. Give 110% and take risks with everything you do, as it will only make you better!”