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I have always been the kind of person who likes to help others, so when the opportunity arose to become a NOWIE mentor, I jumped at the chance!

Throughout my career as an event professional, learning, sharing and encouraging others has a large part of what I do.

Whilst I was at the ICC Birmingham, I worked with the final year events management students from University College Birmingham. I set final year topics and questions, and also listened to and critiqued presentations.

“Karen is always highly professional and has an empathy with both colleagues and clients that allows her to get the best out of them." Sarah Edwards, Assistant Director, Teaching and Learning Enhancement

I continue to support second year events and tourism students at the University of Northampton with Contingency Planning, and planning and delivering their events, and event evaluation.

“Karen provides support, advice, guidance, constructive feedback, coaching and is a good sounding board for her mentees. She has proactively reached out to her network to arrange specialist support sessions which her mentees have found enjoyable, extremely valuable and provided them with more industry contacts. Karen is inspirational and an exceptional role model.” Claire Leer, Senior Lecturer Events Management & Tourism

So, why NOWIE! Well, when the fabulous Chair of NOWIE, Cat Kevern asks you to be a mentor because the NOWIE team think that you will be great, you can’t really say no… can you? NOWIE wanted a mentor who was a mother, an event professional and doing the juggle!!!

My mentoring experience with NOWIE has been fantastic. I have loved every minute of chatting to and working with my fabulous mentee Jenny Davies.

Jenny already has a tremendous amount of events experience working for the Scouts Association. What Jenny was looking from me as a mentor, were things other than event experience:

1. Growing herself confidence and belief in her skills

2. Help in preparing for the next stage in her career.

3. Social media support

4. Understanding that doing the little things first mean that the big things follow.

5. How to do the juggle of work, life, and family!!

This is what Jenny thought about the NOWIE Mentor/ Mentee experience:

“I had a chance NOWIE encounter at a 2022 exhibition. I was there as someone with conference and meetings experience, and they were in the live event section. I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere around the halls of the Excel!

Except, it turned out to be the best ‘wrong turn’ I’ve had. My career started with training in Stage Management and Technical Theatre at drama school but moving out of London and back to my hometown had put paid to that, and a series of jobs across numerous industries followed.

When I first heard of the mentorship I remember thinking ‘I really hope this isn’t just something for the newly graduated events industry members again’. I had been trying to move more and more into events for some time but, as someone who graduated in 2010, I felt too old to be mixing with the newly graduated.

I held my breath and wrote out an application and was delighted to be accepted, and matched with Karen, just a short while later.

Karen has been a breathe of fresh air in my events life. She has been a cheerleader, a whirlwind of action and has had such positivity throughout. I can’t underestimate how much she has boosted my confidence across the last 8 months.

I got the chance to work alongside her at Plantworx in June this year. To see her in action was really inspiring – but it was also a really reassuring moment for me. A moment where I realised ‘I can do this’.

I often let my doubts and slightly confused CV get in the way but NOWIE, and Karen, have reminded me that I have the skills and that I can deliver. I can’t recommend the NOWIE mentorship highly enough.”

The events industry is rewarding and exciting, it can also be a hard world to get into and make your mark.

By mentoring, supporting, and encouraging I am (hopefully) equipping others with a few more life and industry skills to take them on their next chapter… whatever and wherever that may be.

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Using the right materials to increase sustainability in events

As a freelance events professional, I work on a variety of different types of events across various sectors. All the events I have been working on are keen to find ways to implement more practices for sustainability in events. I want to share a few of the best ones I have come across this year:

Plain and unbranded lanyards

We all know that sponsorship is key for any event, and the lanyard sponsor is often the most sought after. The problem with this is materials, production, delivery, cost and waste. The item is a single use. Unless the event has the same sponsor year on year, the lanyard will go to waste, and ultimately to landfill (unless you have invested in bamboo lanyards*)

Keeping your lanyard plain and unbranded means that you can use them on every event.

*bamboo is a readily available fast growing plant, so it’s a better material to use than a plastic based material.

Print in advance badges

Printing your badges in advance does put more pressure on the registration team to get all delegates, sponsors, exhibitors names in advance, but if you can do this, a professional registration company can print badges for you. You can choose the badge paper quality, understand the print process and have the bulk of the printing done for you.

This could be more cost effective process.

Gone are the days of printing reams of incorrect badges out, just to make sure that the text is in the right place, the right size etc…

Well done to ADP for removing the headache of badges and registration!

Getting rid of plastic badge holders

This is definitely controversial! We all like our badges to be well presented when we are wearing them. Not having a plastic wallet means that badges get damaged, crumpled, ripped! This is a small price to pay for not using 100s of plastic wallets that do get thrown in the bin and will not all be recycled.

By using badges printed simply on card/ paper it means they can be easily recycled, rather than the hard plastic clip style badges or any form of sticker.

Well done to The Meetings Show for doing this!

Moving event details onto an App or a WebApp

Most of us have a smart phone and use it daily. Migrating elements of an event to an App or WebApp shouldn’t change the user experience. In fact, it should make the process smoother (for most people). The App or WebApp is at your fingertips, a good one is intuitive, straightforward and has only the details on that you need.

Delegates, Exhibitors, Sponsors can find what they need pre-show, at the show, and after the show (for as long as the tech is ‘live’).

By using an App or WebApp, you would be cutting down print material on site; no show guide/ information guide, no promotional flyers or materials, no business cards, and a central place for registration and networking.

Well done to Plantworx 2023 for taking the plunge and developing a Show WebApp.

sustainability in events - using refillable water bottles

Bringing own refillable water bottles on site

This is an obvious one, as most people carry around their own refillable water bottle! We have now been trained that this is the best thing to do! If you do want to encourage your delegates to bring their own water bottles, make sure your COMMUNCATE this. In advance, send out a plan highlighting where the stations are.

(image courtesy of Zoe Cahalan)

Vegan/ Vegetarian Menu choices

Food is one of the most important elements of an event – it is the thing that everyone remembers! Why not take the plunge and have meat-free menu. It’s healthier, planet friendly and taste delicious. It will definitely be a talking point at the event!

(images courtesy of ADP Event, May 2023 at the Hilton Waldorf, London)

I am sure that none of these practices are new to you, as events professionals we are seeing more and more clients embracing the change and implementing more sustainable practices.

It takes time and energy to change an event and the thinking of the planning team and attendees, but these few practices show that we (all of us) are willing to make the change… and embrace change.

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  • Writer's pictureKaren Edwards

Can a role in the events industry help build success in both areas?

There are two things I am hoping you will take from reading this article; I thoroughly enjoy every aspect of working in the world of events, and family mean everything to me.

Before I start on subject of work and family, let me tell you a little bit about myself; my name is Karen Edwards, for the last 15+ years, I have worked in the world of events; planning, organising and delivering events for venues, clients and agencies. I married to Andy and have two children, Arthur (6) and Margot (1).

If you freelance in the events industry and have a family, you will understand the struggle. How do you forge a career and be the parent that you have always wanted to be? Is it possible to successfully balance the two? Are they completely different or are there lessons to be learnt.

When people find out what I do for a living, most people say “I don’t know how you do it!” The truth is, sometimes I wonder myself!! Why would anyone enter the freelance world of events, and have a young family? For the challenge? For the reward? Or because simply it is what you love and enjoy.

Being a freelancer (specialising in Ops, Logistics and Planning), the roles I work on, can be varied. Anything from on-site delivery to full event management, from budget control to back-end website/ registration management and anything else in between!

When a role comes up, the ideal situation for me would be flexible hours, working from home and minimal onsite delivery time. This way I can do the school run, organise the house, be on top of life admin, do the washing and maybe even plan meals! Oh, and invite fellow mummies round for coffee!

The reality is rarely like this. You are generally fitting into an existing team, with pre-defined ways of working, time scales and meetings. You can be drafted in late in the planning process, so the pressure is on from the start. Gone are the dreams of school pick up, drop off, planned play dates and slow cooked dinners. Instead, your attention is solely on the project deadlines and getting everything else sorted quickly. Children and homelife have to take a back seat, whilst your attention moves solely onto the project.

I bet you are thinking, why would you do this job, when you know you can’t parent like you want too. Well, I have a few tricks up my sleeve that keep me sane and keep the routine going for my family, and also make me feel like I am being the best parent I can be.


Keeping your homelife routine as normal as possible is a must. School, Nursery, clubs, bedtime all need to remain the same. My little ones thrive on the routine that we have, this makes them feel safe. If I am working away or late, my priority is to make sure that the routine is kept; I will ask a grandparent or friend to step in and help out.

Being Open & Honest

I always talk to my children about what projects I am involved in. It helps enormously if they understand what I am doing, why I am doing it and where I am working. They can ask questions; join calls and we can discuss what happens if I am working away or need to work late.


I do have a husband and he is more than capable of looking after the children whilst I am away or working late! What I try to do is include grandparents and friends as much as possible. My husband has added supported, the children are with other people who care for them, and more than, likely, treat them to an ice cream or two. Having a solid family and group of friends you can rely on to ‘co-parent’ when I am away is essential.

Getting prepared

Plan, plan, plan. Now this is where my logistics, planning brain kicks in!! Produce a spreadsheet with all the activities your children are doing whilst you are away – then work out how you are going to cover them all. This is when you need grandparent and friend co-parenting the most!

I always print a copy for the kitchen, so Arthur (6) knows what he is doing and when. The spreadsheet then acts as a countdown chart until I get home or finish a project!

Going away, working long hours doesn’t need to be stressful for anyone. Get all the family involved in how you are going to cover the tasks and make it fun!

The fun stuff

When you are home, planning fun days out and quality time with the children. Doing some cool stuff with the children will give you lots of brownie points with them and get them used to you working, going away, then coming back again.

Your commitment, your abilities and your personality are everything in the events industry and especially when you freelance. Having a young family is an added pressure to your freelancer life; before you even start working, or leave the house, you have planned pick-ups, drops off, made various school projects and wrapped birthday presents! As I have shown being a working mother and a freelancer is possible; you are organised, flexible, good at multi-tasking and can quickly react to a changing situation. All essential skills for the events industry.

The events industry is tough. It is hard work and demanding, so is parenting.

Parenting and Freelancing can work together successfully.

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