When you decide to celebrate an event be it a milestone age, a new life, engagement or celebration of life, it involves a lot of work, time and organization. This is always made easier when you engage the services of Event Professionals. Out there are cowboys and professionals, it is important that you can differentiate who belongs where. The former annihilates, while the latter adds value.
There are celebrants who halfway through their plans, realise they are either too overwhelmed or exhausted to see it through. There are others, who wait till the event date as chaos reigns, before it dawns on them that they should have engaged those best at pulling skills and resources together, to create the memorable day they'd wanted but won't get. Finally, there are those who from the start call in "The Professionals."
Numerous and varied reasons were given as to why choosing an event planner or a professional events caterer, artiste or DJ is eschewed but the one most believe to be the foremost, is the assumed cost. Value is often not placed on the savings in time, ideas, streamlined service and overall enjoyment garnered from sitting back and letting the professionals deliver what you’ve envisaged. While it is possible to plan a grand event yourself, the savings in cost that may or may not be actualised by the celebrant is negligent especially when you consider all that could go wrong.
Celebrants may require the services of a caterer, DJ, drinks service, decorator and so many other vendors and suppliers. Some choose to use family and friends to provide these services. I once attended an event where this was the case. They had the perfect venue, insufficient drinks and haphazardly served meals. The strictly by invitation request wasn't controlled, entertainment was non-existent, with décor unsuited for the venue and drawn out speeches. A lot of money was expended but the overall experience not surprisingly, was one of confusion as no one, not guests, celebrant or those entrusted with providing services had a clue what to expect next.
Event professionals are usually booked separately but together they form a team, sometimes a bond develops, and you find them helping each other out or referring each other for jobs. A client once told me about a 50th birthday event she attended, where the leader of the live band clashed with the DJ and a mini tussle over the microphone was played out in full view of the guests. On the event day what any celebrant or host would appreciate, is to enjoy the day. Their expectations are that each individual contracted, delivers an exemplary manner of professionalism and coordinated service. That is why it is also important to have an event planner or coordinator, to ensure a streamlined and stress-free process between all vendors and suppliers as well as act as a buffer for the client from minutiae details or issues that may arise.
When I started this feature, I was focused on the UK event planners, vendors and suppliers but having had a foray into the Nigerian part of the business, I decided to expand this and asked a few of them from both countries for contributions. Each was sent the same brief, their name what they do, challenges faced and where they see themselves and their business in five years. Meet the 12 professionals that I had the privilege of asking these questions.
Ben Audu @benaudu is a versatile performer and saxophonist based in the UK who also travels for destination events. He has an annual Christmas family and friends themed event and tickets are known to sell out quickly. A few years ago, a friend contacted me, he needed an entertainer for an evening with his new business partners. As he was into jazz music, I suggested a saxophonist. I’d never seen Ben play live at the time but I had his phone number and had seen video clips of him playing. I sent him Ben’s details, the clips and connected them both. The next day Ben was off to Northampton. The feedback received was literally glowing, “Wow, he blew our evening away.” When I finally got to see him play, I agreed. Ben will be making an appearance at a valentine show on 14 February 2020 in London. As you can imagine time was a luxury he couldn’t afford but he spared me some. As close as I was to the deadline that I’d set myself, I deferred publishing to get Ben's contribution.
“My full name is Ben Audu and I have been professionally entertaining people for over two decades.” Ben loves the fact that he brings joy to people when he plays and that he is his own boss as this gives him a chance to, “seek and explore new exploits.” He admits that he does face a few challenges in this role, ones that a lot of self-employed entrepreneurs face; “trying to put myself out there and the capital required to run the business. Other challenges faced are a running theme with some of those I spoke with and that is African time and the value placed on the fee for his services.
Ben’s long-term goal is; “to be the best and continue to make people happy.”
For those unaware of African Time, this is where one receives an invitation with an event start time but chooses to roll in hours later. A trait sadly so prevalent that it earned itself a title. A running joke is to always turn up just in time for dining hour. I personally, find it quite difficult to comprehend why the same people are never late to work. This pattern of behaviour does not show appreciation for the invite. It also places a huge burden on the celebrant and those contracted to provide services on the day, when majority of those being catered for do not bother to turn up in time. There is “fashionably late”, then we have African Time.
Bolanle Ogabi @dj.ogabi is a UK based DJ. I’ve worked with him and know that he is dedicated and a pro at reading the audience. Regardless of cultural differences in his audience, DJ Og knows how to create a unifying and vibrant atmosphere. I watched him effortlessly and without any glitches, set up solo in three different function rooms, without missing a beat.
Here’s what he had to say: "I work under the business name O-G True Music Entertainment and I’ve been a DJ for over fifteen years". He has covered over 400 events to date and these are a combination of Weddings, Engagements, Birthdays as well as corporate events, "I’m happy to travel as well.”
“What I love seeing when I play at an event, is witnessing the joy on the faces of my clients and their guests, as I deliver my services". There’s nothing he dislikes about being a DJ.
“I know that I am yet to hit my peak but that’s my own personal observation because as an individual, I am always looking for ways to improve and develop myself and my brand.” As to where he sees himself and his business in five years: “I see myself teaching and mentoring upcoming DJ’s and others professional DJ’s in the music and entertainment industry.”
Mary Eyo @rlmamakeovers is based in Nigeria and has been in the business for a little over four years. I am yet to plan an event where the services of a Makeup artist or MUA as they’re popularly known is not required by either a celebrant or one of her guests. It’s a competitive field and Mary explains how she ensures she stays at the top of her game.
“I have covered so many events and lost count.” She likes honest people and finds dealing with some clients a huge challenge. “Some clients can be really difficult, but I always find a way to address the situation to alleviate potential conflict.” Also challenging for her are the clients, who fail to recognize the importance of keeping to scheduled appointments. According to Mary, “some clients don't understand that being late for a few minutes can impact negatively on my other appointments for the day as well as their event.” She goes on to add, “with how competitive the business is, you just have to put in your best and remember you are not in competition with others, I strive to be better daily and try not to disappoint my clients.”
For Mary, perfection in this business “is creating a flawless and enhanced look without changing the person to the point where she becomes unrecognizable and also getting the ' WOW' feedback from clients.” In five years, she sees herself running a beauty academy, "where everything about looking good will be under one roof."
Jide Lemom @mc_momelo_ is a versatile UK Master of Ceremony whom I’ve had the pleasure of also working with, he’s also one to take along on destination events as he has a way of being both very professional as well as one of the party, comfortable with any audience and good at engaging them.
“I have been a master of ceremony for almost 14 years and worked on close to 70 events approximately.” The best part for him is getting to know the audience and capturing their attention. "I feel that both the guests as well as the clients need a memorable experience, so I always endeavour to deliver just that.”
“My dislike is when I have to improvise for an impossible situation for instance food finishes and you have to be the peace maker between the guests and the caterers to find a solution.” Perfection, Jide describes as, "intimate events with great clients, vendors and audience.” In five years’ time? "I see myself doing this as a full-time career.”
Gbenga Kolawole @Classiccutemedia is a Nigerian based event Photographer and Videographer who has been in the business for five years. I’ve had him cover photoshoots and a couple of events for clients in Lagos.
Gbenga, has covered over 50 events in this time from weddings to birthdays and other celebrations. “I love adventure and of course the business has taken me to different places." While Gbenga says he loves all aspects of his job, he does have certain aspects that he believes could make life easier for him, and he dislikes "when an event is not well planned.” Challenges faced - "African time syndrome, when an event start time is 12 noon and commences at 2pm, time is money." He stresses that, "it is also important, that the celebrant’s day is not marred by guests or vendors turning up late.”
His idea of perfection is "a well-planned event with top notch vendors and a client who believes in the professionalism of the vendors without any form of interference.” Professionally, his aim in the next five years is to be "one of the top five event photographer and videographer in Nigeria".