#EventProf of the week: Sophie Phillip, freelancer

Each week we will focus on a StandOut individual who has been extraordinary within the events industry. This week it is Sophie Phillip, freelance event manager.

How did you get into the events industry? Where has your career taken you and what roles have you enjoyed?

I studied Human Biology at Loughborough University, a degree that is now just an expensive piece of paper. While I was there I was heavily involved in the snowsports club and ran several events for them, potentially to the detriment of my degree, nevertheless, it gave me my start! After graduating, I got a job running the British University Snowsports Championships and moved to London. It was a tough year, given that realistically I had no idea what I was doing but the events were delivered successfully. I learnt a vast amount about myself and what I wanted from my job. From there the wonderful Miriam Feintuck secured me a job with Vison Nine working on Boardmasters and NASS where I stayed for a couple of years then went freelance and never looked back!

My job has taken me all over the world, from Senegal to Oman to the Faroe Islands. My role in the Faroes was a favourite, I was the operations manager for the Atjan Wild Islands festival which comprises a festival set up mixed in with several races including an ultra marathon. Combining this super interesting mix with the brutal beauty of the landscape and the hospitality of the Faroese people made it a really memorable job. I still work for this team on their stunning UK show Love Trails.

What is it about your job that you love doing?

Teaching and learning. Managing someone and seeing them nail a new skill, successfully handle a major briefing or produce something fantastic is about as fulfilling as it gets. I love mentoring people, seeing them find the best part of themselves and learning to love their job.

I also love learning. It is something that lacked in my 2023 jobs so has been carefully laced into my 2024 planning. I am looking forward to sitting, listening, absorbing then cracking on. Learning is so important to progression and something that we sometimes forget. I certainly didn’t value it enough when I was younger, and it seems to creep up on my priority list each year.

Finally, I love that I never have the same day twice, the nature of events and freelancing means you are always kept on your toes!

 

 

What’s been the stand out moment of your career so far?

A big step was when very old friend of mine – Matt Tooth – hired me as the ops manager for a long project in Riyadh. It was a tough gig and at the time it was a step up. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it, but Matt backed me (for which I am eternally grateful) and I haven’t looked back since. The gig ran beautifully, the docs were slick, and I remember being so proud of our complex gates set-up.

A more recent one was getting an auto-responder from my friend Nat Tayor saying to get in touch with Lucy Harding, event manager, if anything was urgent. I had been freelancing as the mainstage event manager for a while, knew I wasn’t going back into the role and had been training Lucy up for this, but I didn’t know it had happened! I felt an overwhelming sense of pride, I had had the chance to mentor Lucy and bring out some other elements in her already fabulous personality. Lucy is going very far in the events industry, look out for that name!

What’s been your biggest achievement? Equally, what have you done that you can now look back on and cringe?

A big moment was on a job in the Middle East, I was working with 95 per cent locals and men. There was a big meeting, and I was told I couldn’t attend as I wasn’t a national (this was a while back). The meeting was held weekly and to start with every so often they would ask me to pop in to answer questions. It was made up of various government authorities, generals police etc, all in Arabic, everyone twice my age. By the middle of the project, I was very much a part of the weekly meeting, and it would be held in a mixture of languages. By the end of the project it had been dubbed “Sophie’s meeting” and they would never start until I arrived. I had befriended people with whom I shared very few words in the same language, were from an entirely different culture and had changed their minds entirely about what someone who looks like me is capable of. It was exhausting but it was a brilliant breakthrough and one I will always be proud of.

Good cringe moment – first show out of university, I was the event manager and realised that my security was getting confused with my accreditation system. I didn’t have the artwork for the wristbands, so I stuck some tyveks to a piece of paper, wrote details with a Sharpie, laminated them and had them distributed, At the time, I didn’t know the word accreditation nor the concept of a pass sheet, but they worked!

Another cringe one was my first show stop… I had the script in my hand, did I read it? Nope! My venue was small but really out of the way and we had some severe wind coming in, I had no H&S there, so I was a bit of a one-woman team. I called it due to the incoming gusts and blurted out some terrible wording on stage telling everyone to “clear out ASAP”. Everyone left, the structure was secured, and I just looked like a bit of an eejit. All is well that ends well?

What key pieces of advice would you give to someone starting in events?

  • Know your worth – set yourself a minimum rate and stick to it.
  • Go with your gut – if it feels wrong then it probably is, stick with your gut! Whenever I have ignored mine, I have massively regretted it!
  • Understand the package – accommodation, catering, laundry, phone bill, ground transports, flights, days off, hours, the list can go on forever, make sure you know what your package is outside of your day rate. All of the above will make a massive difference in how you perform at your job.
  • 48-hour rule – take 48 hours off between jobs and no, plane, train and car journeys between them don’t count toward this! You cannot be the best version of yourself when you are fatigued, prioritise your welfare.
  • Reputation is everything – once you have committed to a job don’t cancel without genuine due cause, letting someone down in an unprofessional manner is a black mark against your name
  • Burn-out is not cool – glamourisation of how little sleep you had died in the early 2000s, exhaustion makes you sh*te at your job, so go to bed!
  • Number one top tip – be kind to people, it costs you nothing and event sites can be really rough environments in which to operate. People will remember this kindness and it will be repaid in many forms, from cake to job offers, it is always worth being nice.

What career goals do you have and where do you see yourself heading? For example, is there an event that you would love to work on but haven’t?

I recently had the chance to make a career move and take on a project of my own, bring in a team of my own and handle every single element from start to finish. It was the perfect time of year, easy size and would have been great for me financially but I didn’t take it. I adore my job and I am immensely proud of where I am to date but taking on the project would have meant being very much “available” all the time for the client, working across time zones in India, Singapore, Albania and America which ultimately meant eating into my time off in the mountains. For context, in winter, I pretty much switch off and snowboard every day, it is a formula that brings me utter joy and I am determined to stick with it. I have friends that would have jumped at the offer I was given to step up but for me, it wasn’t right.

My career goals are to carry on having tonnes of time off, taking on jobs I love, working for people I respect and broadening my horizons.

In terms of events I want to work on, it is time to go back to my routes of “extreme” sports, I would love to work on the UTMB or some adventure races. I love being outside in stunning environments, so this is my next step!

If you would like to nominate someone for #EventProf of the week, please email marketing@standoutmagazine.co.uk