James Gould, Head of Events, Zurich

You have an interesting role within your company, tell me a bit more about it.

My role is Head of Events for Zurich Insurance in the UK. I have a dedicated in-house team of six event managers responsible for the delivery of our events, hospitality and sponsorship program for both internal and external events for the UK business. As a team we manage in the region of 180 events a year of all sizes and types. 

In addition to leading the team, my role has a strategic element to work with the various parts of our business to ensure we are putting on the most appropriate events and getting the best use of our investment. We constantly review our events program to make sure they remain relevant, competitive and good value for money.

What do you enjoy most?

I have a fabulous team who work incredibly hard. I always take great satisfaction from seeing them deliver fantastic events and achieve great recognition from colleagues and customers. 

We are also incredibly fortunate to work for a fair and supportive employer. Over the last few years we have seen Zurich lead the way with its updated people policies such as flexible working, FlexWork, not to mention our Family Friendly policy which includes equal entitlement for paternity leave as for maternity. The events industry is incredibly demanding and involves long unsociable hours. So it’s great to see us able to apply these people policies to ensure the team have the ability to balance work and personal life.

What is the best career advice you’ve been offered?

Never stop trying to improve and innovate. 

People attend more and more events, so the challenge is always there to make sure you are at the very top of your game. It’s so important that events are memorable and exciting. So with that it is crucial to constantly innovate and look to improve the attendee experience, especially when events are repeated year on year or on a more frequent basis. This doesn’t mean making drastic changes but so often just the smallest ideas or personal touches can have the biggest impact. It also keeps it interesting for event managers rather than having constant ground hog day. 

What has been your biggest challenge?

Trying to get events on the map and recognised as an expertise. 

So often people just think event managers only handle logistics. Whilst that is a huge part of what we do, we can offer so much more.

Getting the events team a seat at the table for the initial discussions or being invited to give their experience and professional ideas can often be challenging. But once colleagues realise the benefit of events being involved at the outset it’s great to see people recognising how much more efficient the entire process can be.

How do you continue to develop yourself and your skills?

Very similar to the greatest advice I ever received, it’s about constantly innovating and making sure that you look for improvements and efficiencies. 

In my role as a Head of Events it is also so crucial to build a network of peers to share experience, ideas and make sure you have keep ahead of the game. Networking groups such as ICE are so important for this and as a relatively new member I can already see the opportunities and am excited to learn from others.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for the industry at the moment?

Without doubt it is the ability to demonstrate return on events/investment and having some measurement framework. 

For years now events have survived on the goodwill of receiving great feedback as attendees leave with smiles on their faces or the emails of thanks and gratitude immediately after. 

But with organisations focusing so much now on spend and value for money, it is vital for the industry to learn how to demonstrate the importance and benefit of events.