María Teresa Yagüe Martín

Business Events for Rookies (VI): ECM Mentor Programme

María Teresa Yagüe Martín

Everybody knows that 2020 was not the best year to start working in the business events industry. Or any industry at all involving big gatherings, hospitality or travel. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what I did. I started working in one of the industries which COVID-19 hit hardest only few months before it began spreading. And I came in with absolutely no background studies or experience in the sector, which usually should not be a problem since I am a big fan of learning by doing… Unless there is a global pandemic and the whole world paralyzes. Literally.

Don’t get me wrong, I did learn and kept busy helping to improve some of ENITED’s existing solutions and to create new ones, making videos and other visual materials to increase our visibility while the storm passed, etc. And, as we have tirelessly said all along, the ENITED team stayed active, looked towards the future and, essentially, worked hard. But, of course, with the “on-site work” having disappeared, my learning curve was not going up at the desired path.

And then, exactly a year after I was hired at ENITED (call it a coincidence, call it karma, call it what you like), I was told about European Cities Marketing (ECM) and their newly launched Mentorship Programme for newbies in the business events industry.

The programme is structured as a 12-month journey “to generate exchange and knowledge between new and advanced professionals”. In other words, a well-established event professional chats with and guides a rookie (i.e. me!), and they both share their experience and ideas while trying to achieve certain professional and personal goals.

Now, was I interested in participating as a mentee? Of course. Was I also a bit skeptical about it? Yes. In all honesty, I had never been involved in such a programme before, so I did not know the dynamic it would follow. Besides, I somehow felt I was “too” new for it considering I had attended almost no face-to-face events in all year, so I had no “field-expertise” on how to actually get around in the business events industry.

Anyway, I signed up. And, as it turns out, it was a great decision. I was paired with Laura Argyropoulou, a “marketing & communication expert with a focus on the MICE destination marketing” based in Thessaloniki, Greece. We decided to have a video call once a month where we would have a casual chat about our projects or situations at work at the moment, events or webinars we were planning to attend, potential activities to do together, etc.

I would say we built from the beginning a very constructive and reciprocal mentor-mentee connection and all I can do is thank her for making it so easy for an introvert like me to open up to a stranger through a screen. As I said before, our mentorship “journey” will not be over until September 2021, so this story is to be continued…

Additionally, two weeks ago ECM introduced yet another element to the Mentorship Programme: the Mentees Hackathon. As a voluntary exercise, mentees could participate and work in a case trying to solve one of the following topics: how to promote destinations in online events, how to maximise the value of having both an online and an in-person audience in hybrid events, or new meeting formats for congresses. The Hackathon took the form of a friendly competition in teams aimed for mentees to network with and learn from each other, as well as to work together.

I signed up for that as well. After a week of brainstorming and collaboration by all teams, our projects were judged by the ECM jury according to several criteria (approach, solution-thinking, facility to implement ideas, and creativity among others) and, on Friday 5 February the teams presented their projects and the winning team was announced…

*drum roll*

And I am delighted to say that my team won!! Our proposal consisted on integrating a destination promotion element into an online event –the launch of a new electric car model– where attendees could test the car in real time while discovering the destination.

Why am I sharing this? Because this experience proved that there are initiatives which can bring people together and allow them to connect and learn in an engaging way, even in the COVID era.

It also proved that newbies do have bright ideas and important things to share. We are not only listeners, but the shapers of the future of the industry. All mentees participating in the Hackathon demonstrated we can compete in a healthy way and deliver solid proposals when we are presented with a challenge. We all were an example of teamwork, professionalism and originality, and we had a great time with each other along the process!

So, to conclude, I’d like to heartily thank again my wonderful team mates and mentor, and the whole ECM team for this fantastic opportunity. And, finally, I’d also like to encourage all rookies in the business events industry to fight this “Covid-derived stagnation” and take that extra brave step, participate in this kind of programmes, embrace all opportunities and resources you have at hand and don’t be afraid to ask for help or orientation. You won’t regret it.