Getting into live events

 17 September 2012

sevens7 are a live events company, specialising in event management, show production, tour support, event IT and brand activation. They’ve worked everything from large-scale summer festivals to the Diamond Jubilee.

Dan Howson, center, is a Business Development Director at live events company, sevens7.
Dan Howson, center, is a Business Development Director at live events company, sevens7.

Dan Howson is their Business Development Director. He spoke about his own career progression and gave some tips for getting started.

Working in live events

“At sevens7, we work with all types of live event and temporary infrastructure projects in the UK and abroad. Recently we produced a village for workers at the London Olympics (an example of ‘temporary infrastructure’); before that we stage managed elements of the Diamond Jubilee.

“It was hard to get any decent careers advice. There was nothing personalised about the advice I was getting.

“We also produced MTV Crashes in Glasgow, managed The Cube by Electrolux on top of the Royal Festival Hall and we’re about to go on tour with Nissan throughout Europe.

“I started out as a Project Coordinator, and after a little while became Production Manager and then Executive Producer. Now, as Business Development Director at sevens7, I focus directly on getting new business, making new connections, networking, and developing the services we offer.

“I’m responsible for getting us new opportunities and jobs, and developing exciting new ideas for all our potential clients – and there’s a huge range of them to think about.

“I’m particularly involved in the early stages of a project. For example, I took the brief for the St George’s Day celebrations in Trafalgar Square, did a lot of the initial concept development and then contributed to the final pitch document and presentation. That means a lot of talking!

“But I’m also supported by an experienced and very creative group of producers and production managers, so the whole thing’s a team effort.”

Getting into live events

“I think I can date my passion for the industry to the moment I first saw Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller around the age of about 6 or 7.

“I was massively into music, film, theatre and video from then right up to the age where you start making choices. And then I hit a brick wall: it was really hard to get any decent careers advice and direction.

“The teachers were all pushing me towards doing economics at university, but I didn’t even have Maths GCSE! There was nothing personalised about the advice I was getting.

Linking up education and employment

“After a year off, during which I got a bit of experience, I went to Bretton Hall to do theatre design and technology. But even after three years of great teaching, I still didn’t really know what I was doing career-wise – how my education course linked up with future employment.

“I wish I’d had access to industry information and a place where I could showcase my skills, get relevant training and talk to professionals."

“So I went to London, and got some jobs on the fringe. I really wanted to be a set painter or designer. But all the experience I got ended up really moulding my talents as a producer instead.”

Like many people starting out in the creative industries, Dan did a number of different jobs in the early years. “I worked in pubs, painted props on cruise ships, acted as a sound and light technician on the fringe, and did set painting in Potters Bar theatre. I planned the odd party and ran my own club nights.”

There were countless rejections before he eventually got his lucky break, through a friend who was working in a large production company. “It just goes to show that at that time it really was more about who you knew than what you knew.

“I still really wish I’d had access to industry information and a place where I could showcase my skills, get more relevant training and talk to knowledgeable professionals – I got there in the end, but with that kind of support my journey would have been much shorter and more structured.”

Getting young people into live events

Drawing on his own experience of insufficient careers advice, today Dan manages sevens7’s youth development programme, Stepladder Worldwide, his own creation.

“When I first started out in production, I did spend a lot of time literally just sitting around waiting for work to pop up.

“We have a lot of young people working with us at sevens7 and the idea of Stepladder is to give them something to own early on in their career, something practical to do in those quiet periods while they’re working on our shows.

“We encourage them to produce projects beneficial for other young people and indeed themselves, like careers events, fundraisers and peer-to-peer notifications of job opportunities.”

“When I first started out in production, I did spend a lot of time literally just sitting around waiting for work to pop up."

“It’s great to be able to take junior members of the team into meetings at board or client level, which gives them the chance to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.

“I myself provide a lot of CV advice from an employer’s perspective. That’s something you never get access to at school at college, and I think there is still a big problem with bad CV writing, structure and presentation skills.”

Working as a Skills Ambassador

“I’m now working with the Skills Academy as an Ambassador. I think that, as an industry, we should embrace the need for skills development and open the doors much wider to people from any background at any level.

“Employers and training providers are on each other’s doorsteps, but we don’t currently work together closely enough to develop the right skills for the specific jobs. Fortunately, this is starting to change through the Skills Academy.

“For me, working as a Skills Ambassador fits naturally with the work we’re already doing at sevens7 through Stepladder, accelerating skills and knowledge and supporting young people.”

4 tips for finding work in live events

  1. Understand what it is that you want to do, and how the industry functions
    This can change over time, but you come across far better if you have a focus or a specific desire and energy to succeed in a particular field.
  2. Do your research, and remember the importance of preparation.
    Be diligent! Make sure you know who’s interviewing you – find out about them beforehand, and don’t go to an interview you’re not interested in.
  3. Approach your CV as an interview script
    Get all the information in there about your passions and why you want to work in the industry. You see people put all the really juicy information about their interests and experiences down in the ‘hobbies’ section and the rest of the CV is just about how well they work in a team. This is not important to an employer, as it’s written in every CV – be creative in your writing and conversation.
  4. Be confident, ask questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
    As an employer we’re not out there to trip you up we just want to find the next best people who will take our business forward so come and inspire us with your ability and desire to learn more.

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