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Helen Moon has a career spanning over two decades, including roles in event production, venue operations, proactive sales and digital marketing. Recently co-founding EventWell and speaking at Confex, Helen was able to take time out of her busy schedule to chat to H&E North.

Hi Helen, how was this year’s International Confex for you?
Confex this year for me was great and my biggest highlight had to be visiting for the first time in 14 years with a speaker badge to talk about my two biggest passions, wellbeing and the events industry.

There were still plenty of people not put off by the snow and able to join me for the EWL Club [Eventprofs Who Learn] pop-up discussion about resting and recuperating after a big event and preparing body and mind for the next. It was also a great follow up with the EventWell panel held in association with ILEA-UK on the main stage which received an incredible response.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career?
Where do I begin? I started in events in 1997 at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport, my hometown. I completed my diploma in Hospitality Management and then spent six years working in event coordination and operations at Shrigley Hall in Cheshire and the newly opened Liverpool Marriot South Hotel (which is now a Crowne Plaza).

After working at various venues, in 2015 I decided to switch roles and requalified as an event marketer picking up my CIM Foundation in Marketing certificate and diploma in Event Management with Event Academy. I then worked on a freelance project basis with Rich Insight to launch its inaugural and annual Retail Recharged conference as well as with UK Fashion and Textile Association Rise division, managing its events programme and digital marketing.

In 2016 I went off on maternity and in September last year officially returned to launch the first UK Event Wellbeing Week #EventWell17, and to resume my full role with EWL Club which I’d also launched in 2015. It’s been 21 years now and I’m as passionate and excited about what I do as I was the day I started. I can’t see that ever changing!

How did you end up in the south?
An opportunity came up to move to Marriott Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire in 2003. The year after I moved a little further south to central London working in proactive sales; account management and business development working for Millennium & Copthorne, Park Plaza Hotels, Barbican Centre, Principal Hayley and a couple of independent venues.

The EWL Club has since expanded to the Midlands and the North West – why is it important for event professionals to connect?
We work in the people business don’t we? As humans we’re social beings, but find ourselves in a digitalised world where communication is done differently to 10 years ago. This makes what we do incredibly important as a professional business sector.

Face-to-face allows you to build valuable relationships and make connections on a level that you just can’t do online. Digital communications like email, text and social media can be misconstrued and taken out of context, you can’t pick up those non-verbal signals which actually make up more than 80% of language and conversation with another person and can really help you get to know someone on a personal basis.

The strapline for EWL is ‘#Eventprofs who learn together, grow together’. I’ve been gifted in this industry to have worked with some amazing event professionals, who are still around today, and not just in London but in the North West as well. The people I have met along my 21-year journey have helped shape who I am today as an event professional. There is nothing more powerful than that and that is why it’s important to connect.

What motivated you to set up EventWell?
Launching a wellbeing initiative for the industry had been a desire of mine for a number of years before the decision to move forward was made last year. As someone who has been in the industry for two decades and has so much enthusiasm and passion for what we do as an industry, there are also times where it is bloomin’ hard work and I have my own personal experiences of this.

I suffered a massive career burnout nine years ago in 2009, and it was around this time that I was also diagnosed with Bipolar. It was an incredibly difficult and lonely period in my career, the fallout at the time was immense and having experienced that, and still to this day feeling the aftershocks, it has inspired me to want to help and ensure that no one else has to go through the same and certainly not alone.

Is wellbeing and good mental health for people in the events industry being taken seriously?
I think it is starting to be taken seriously. For a long time the attitude across the industry has been this is the way it is working in events, get used to it and get on with it. Last year we started to see a shift, but in my view it is still lip service and there is a still lot to be done.

The research that was carried out for the #EventWell17 campaign last year identified that one in three event professionals will suffer from an episode or period of mental illness at some point in their careers, when you compare this to figures that suggest one in four is the overall national average, then just from this alone we can see that there is a major problem that needs to be addressed in the industry.

What we like to say at EventWell is that everyone has mental health, just as we all have physical health and there should be no distinction from the two. Everything we do – work, exercise, diet, sleep – all affect both so equal importance should be given to both, and we should be able to talk openly about them without reproach or discrimination. We’re amazing at putting on fantastic events and looking after stakeholders and delegates but we’re not so great at looking after ourselves, and we need to get better at that.

What will EventWell be focusing on in 2018?
We’ve decided as a new social enterprise to split this year into two really important business periods. In the first, phase one, we’re taking the time to engage and speak with the industry as we conduct research and analysis in terms of what event professionals need by way of a new educational resource and wellbeing hub.

Phase two, later in the year will be the official launch of the business which will also coincide with our second campaign week, #EventWell18 – Event Wellbeing Week on 17th to 21st September. We are just about to start discussing the plans for this so watch this space.

We’ve done a lot of work on the new website, providing a hub of information that businesses and individuals can access on a wealth of wellbeing topics, sleep, exercise, working well, living well and mindfulness, there is something for everyone, and we encourage everyone to visit and explore.

As an experienced event marketer, what would you say are some of the big mistakes that event organisers can make when promoting their event?
For me it has to be not understanding their audience demographic or putting themselves in the same mind-set as their attendees. There are still too many who would promote the features of an event rather than the benefits, i.e. what’s in it for them? How is your event going to help them and help their business?

It’s tough out there at the moment and with all the uncertainty that exists people have to justify not just time spent away from the office, but the investment made to attend an event and the ROI from that investment. A good event marketer these days really needs to understand their audience and their needs, almost from a consultative selling perspective, build relationships, get to know them, really get under their skin and find out what makes them tick. Get this right and you’ll sell more tickets, it’s that simple.

As a northerner in London, do you think the north can compete with the big capital to draw clients?
London will always be the epicentre of the UK events industry simply because it is the capital and receives a huge amount of international focus, but what we are seeing now is a shift of this focus to the Midlands and the new Northern Powerhouse as it’s being called.

There have always been amazing facilities and venues in the north and we’ve seen some huge investment made in the big cities, certainly in Liverpool and Manchester, to draw planners and the attendees looking for something refreshing and new and that could certainly put some London locations to shame.

What will happen after Brexit, who knows, but there is huge opportunity now for suppliers and venues in the north to draw on a desire for fresh experiences and innovations. It’s not a case of trying to compete with London, but really understanding potential markets and working with planners to push the benefits of a northern destination for their events.

Away from work, what do you do in your spare time?
Haha! My little girl is just about to turn two so I don’t get to relax much and I no longer have any spare time. But joking aside when I do get to relax, I like to run, it’s a great mind clearer for me, I also read, knit, and most importantly spend time with family, friends and the people I care most about.

I find it easier these days to switch off from work when I need to, I’m not perfect and at the end of the day I’m managing two businesses but when I need to prioritise my personal life and switch off I just do it. I work to live not the other way around.

What has been your proudest career moment?

Probably right now! It feels like the right thing to do and what I am supposed to be doing. EventWell matters to so many people and I’m incredibly proud of everything that we’ve achieved to date and our plans for this year. Onwards and upwards!