How to Hire or be Hired in the Events Industry - AMA with Robert Kenward from June 26 to 29

We are delighted to welcome Robert Kenward, founder of event industry recruitment specialist YOU search & select, to host an Ask Me Anything session from June 26-29.

Robert has worked within the events and recruitment sector for over 17 years, including at a senior level within top agencies Banks Sadler, Sledge and mcm creative group. He has explored the world of hiring from all angles – namely as a candidate, a client and a now an independent recruiter, working exclusively with event and communication agencies.

By practising his unique “Fitability®” model, Robert helps companies attract and retain talent, matching people with people, as well as skills with job descriptions. You can ask Robert questions on any aspect of employment or HR, whether you want to find the best people to take your business forward, or discover how to get your dream job in events.

Please post your questions on this thread and Robert will be here to answer them from Tuesday, June 26.

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Welcome @robert I will kick off with a question: If you want to fast track to the top within an events company; reach director level, get on the board etc. is there any special formula?

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How does someone start in event industry, do they start at the bottom and work their way up or do they get a qualification to enter the industry?

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Tough question to start with, blimey !!
I’ve always believed qualifications are a great way in, however, they’re not a necessity, and each agency will have their own thoughts on them.

My advice to people looking to get into the sector is think about what you’re good at, what do you enjoy doing and then target businesses that align with this.

Instead of just sending in your CV speculatively, create a personalised overview that explains how you would help them, how you would add value and why you’ve chosen their brand as a match for you.

Recruitment in the events industry is a noisy space, so you need to stand out creatively and intelligently from the start.


If I knew the formula, I’d bottle it and make a fortune !!

The key is not just hard work, but working smarter. We’ve all done 10-15 hour days and think we’ll get noticed and rewarded for our hard work, however, these people are not working smart and will usually burn out after a few years (max).

Working smarter is about using your skills to impact the business in the most cost-effective and time-sensitive way. Don’t be afraid to be the first one to put your hand up to take on a project that impacts the business, or even better, be proactive with the owners & senior stakeholders if you have ideas to share and volunteer to implement side projects.

One of the best tips I can give people looking to move into senior leadership, is to surround yourself with people smarter than you and learn a little bit of each of them so that you become a more rounded professional and can, therefore, establish wider relationships which support and grow the business, this is a sure fire way to prick the ears of the owners and senior stakeholders.


Thank you for the answer. I believe someone should start at the bottom and gather qualifications on the way up.

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Great advice. What do you think about trying to get a mentor? In your experience, are there many senior people interested in taking on this role (or have the time to do so). Should a mentee be prepared to pay?

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@Top_Members do you have any questions for Robert - especially those of you looking to hire staff?

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I think a mentor is one of the best things a professional can arrange for themselves.

I have had mentors myself and they’ve been invaluable for my career and personal development. I meet my current mentor bi-monthly and we discuss everything and anything and it’s a great support to me.

I have also taken on mentees and as well as helping them develop, it makes a difference to me too, both in mind and spirit.

With regards to payment, if you pay someone to help and support you, that’s not a mentor, that’s a coach or a consultant and that’s a completely different set up.

How did you find your mentors? I would be worried to ask people because of the time commitment involved and senior people are normally always busy people.

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They usually come about naturally, however you do need to formalise it.
Like asking someone out, “will you be my mentor please”.
If you frame it as to why you think they would be a good mentor, anybody would be flattered. If not, the worse they can do is say no!

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Hi Robert,
I think we agree that company/team culture is key to attracting and retaining top talent.
But earning potential is another big motivator for hungry eventprofs.
If an agency were to want to shake things up a bit and come up with a forward thinking compensation plan to attract and retain experienced sales execs, what would that look like today?


I didn’t know I’d be giving away billable information, trust you Caleb !!

A professional sales person is motivated by 3 things,

  1. Financial reward for a job well done
  2. Being told they’re doing a good job
  3. Autonomy to do a good job and be rewarded for doing so…

I’m a big fan of paying commission on all ‘wins’, assuming they have been qualified in advance as a target demo client. Pay a % up to an agreed level (circa 5-8%) , then pay an overperformance bonus that both parties are comfortable with.
Pay quarterly, not annually, have a clear code of conduct and/or guidelines as to what is expected from them, show a clear career path that benefits both parties not just the agency and let them get on with it.

If you apply rules 1-3 with any professional, they won’t want to go anywhere else anyway.

Oh, I almost forgot the cardinal sin, please don’t promote the sales person to team leader due to high performance only, this is a sure fire way to ruin any company ethos or culture and they will leave within 12 months. .


What is the best way to move on quickly when you realise the job isn’t how it was advertised?


Great question and unfortunately due to people rushing to recruit (fill a chair), rather than take the time to do things properly, I hear of this situation happening a lot.

If the employer/recruiter has ‘over sold’ the role to you, then personally I’d meet with the hiring manager and my line manager and explain my areas of concern if you feel they can be worked out together.

The cold hard truth of the matter is though, you will probably only be on a week’s notice if you’ve not got to your probation date at this point, so you will need to look at other opportunities immediately to ensure you have something tangible in the pipeline should things not work out.

I know it won’t be a popular opinion amongst some, however you must look after yourself first as you will have bills to pay and your employer will have no qualms giving you your notice if they think they haven’t ‘over sold’ the role and the problem lies with you

Side note; If you got the current job through a recruiter, be sure to pick someone else next time.

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Will working in a small events agency help build the way into working for a big sports organisations or brands such as the World Cup or Olympics? These organisations usually have a more advanced application structure or only volunteering options on their website. How do you approach them and best show your experience?


Great answer! You should never feel bad for not staying in the job and have the recruiter loose out on his commission as he did a bad job. Also like your approach not to go with the same recruiter again :+1:


Interesting point of view and one that I used to hear a few years back when the industry didn’t have the competition for talent like it does now from other relevant or transferable sectors. I’m a firm believer in the ‘bottom’ being just as important as the ‘top’ and also an advocate of people coming into the sector at whatever level suits them and the employer.

Firstly, I love how you’re already thinking about bigger brands and opportunities.
Secondly, any agency that has an ‘advanced application structure’ should put you off immediately, if they’re not interested in treating prospective new talent as individuals, then I doubt they’ll be much fun or aid your development when you’re in them.

Now to your question (sorry I got side-tracked).

With regards to getting into agencies that do the ‘cooler’ stuff, if it’s not through the front door, then it will be through the back. The events/experiential/MICE sector has a huge networking community with its ear always to the ground and it’s these referrals that will get you in front of the right people.
One idea is to keep a file of pictures from events you’ve been a part of, every event you do will have stills, VT etc. (or take some yourself) and keep a log. When you then need to pull a portfolio together you will have it visualised and people love being able to see the projects you’re talking about as they will bring your stories and experience to life.


Hi Robert, really enjoying your insights, thank you! I would like to know how important you believe networking to be within the events industry? Do you think it’s a fundamental part of building a career in events - perhaps even more so than other sectors?